Startups often pride themselves on their laid-back company culture and atmosphere; opting for flexible schedules, remote working, and lenient dress codes. So it might surprise you that more and more founders are opting to wear uniforms, without actually realizing it.
“The capsule wardrobe [i.e., a mini wardrobe made up of really versatile pieces …] movement is far from mainstream. But, elevated in the social consciousness by some high-profile personalities, more and more people are applying minimalist principles to their fashion.”
Quite possibly they’re taking cues from leagues of successful people (e.g. Mark Zuckerberg, the late Steve Jobs, Karl Lagerfeld, etc.) who choose to wear the same outfit everyday, or adopt a more streamlined wardrobe.
Should our employees wear work uniforms?
Although many people associate work uniforms with formal work attire and a strict dress code this isn’t always the case. It simply means that a clear dress code policy exists which prompts everyone in the organization to wear similar attire (i.e., business casual).
Like many entrepreneurs, you may wonder if you should implement a standard dress code and work uniform for employees based on their roles and customer facing duties. Well, the answer depends on a lot of things.
Some industries, particularly service-based businesses, and their customers expect work uniforms and a standardized dress code. It’s pretty important for customers to be able to recognize who’s a professional member of your organization. If this is the case, work uniforms definitely come in handy! They’re also important for workers in certain healthcare, food, and construction industry sectors due to regulations and safety codes.
If your employees are dealing with customers face-to-face, a uniformed team can help potential customers spot employees, translating into faster and improved customer service. Think about retail employees wearing a standard color vest – it makes it easy for shoppers to spot them and ask for help if they need it.
Even with the traditional interpretations of business dress attire: business formal, business professional, business casual, and small business casual; are work uniforms relevant for startups?
Customers will judge your company’s productivity based solely on its level of professionalism. Often perceptions of professionalism are gauged by outward appearances – including work attire.
Not convinced? Hear me out. Like I was saying earlier, work uniforms don’t have to be serious or super formal. Work attire can expresses something cool or special about your brand.
Benefits of a ‘uniform’ culture
You may notice that startup teams love to wear a t-shirt with their logo at events, conferences, or even in the office. That’s a uniform! Of course, members of your team can definitely still personalize their uniforms with varying hairstyles, accessories, shoes, etc. A work uniform doesn’t have to be 100% identical.
Beyond expressing consistency in your brand or providing brand exposure there are also some real benefits that come with startups wearing a work uniform.
Here are some additional benefits of startups standardizing employee uniforms.
1. Work uniforms communicate cohesiveness.
You’re all on equal standing here with a team uniform in a very visual way. Plus, it stops people from showing up with clothing that might be considered offensive or distracting. Unity is really important for early-stage startups; keeping the team on equal footing when attending events, meeting with clients, investors, and more.
And let’s not forget about team building. Having a unified look can help your team feel like they’re part of a bigger picture, instilling pride in the company.
2. Work uniforms can boost your brand.
By providing company branded gear you can easily market your company. It can also lend itself to an air of professionalism and ensure employees are viewed as professionals, which can be a hurdle for young companies just starting out.
This is a win for customers and your team members. Studies suggests that what you wear can even affect how well you work. “It’s the simultaneous combination of the posture or the clothes and the symbolic meaning of them that matters.”
3. Work uniforms lessen decision fatigue.
Bonus. Work uniforms cut down on the time your team will have to think about getting ready in the morning. A growing startup can be challenging and managing all of the moving pieces can be hectic as each team member takes on a number of roles. This can lead to information overload.
“Information overload also leads to something called “decision fatigue.” It’s why Albert Einstein is nearly always pictured wearing a gray suit, why Steve Jobs usually wore a black turtleneck and why Mark Zuckerberg is almost always sporting his signature gray T-shirt. They didn’t want to waste valuable energy making inconsequential decisions about their clothes.”
Best of all, startups can accomplish this with a simple polo or t-shirt. Here’s a look at how to pick the best “uniform” for your team.
List 5-10 words that make your brand different. What makes you guys really stand out from the competition? Think about your personality and your unique history as a company.
What story do you want to tell? What sort of look do you want? Just switching from a t-shirt to a polo shirt can increase how formally your work attire is perceived.
Think about your team. You can even get them involved in the brainstorming and design process. Have fun!
One of the cool parts about running a startup is that you get to play by your own rules.
This article has been edited and condensed.