What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions a man in uniform? If you are like most of us, you probably think of a military officer or first responder. That’s because there are certain connotations to that phrase. A ‘man in uniform’ denotes someone who isn’t wearing casual street clothing, but someone whose uniform says something about him and what he does.
CNN contributor Paul Flynn recently wrote a piece exploring the allure of the proverbial man in uniform. His insights are the impetus for this post. They provide the foundation of the following five lessons:
1. Uniforms Speak of Position
Given that our image of a man in uniform usually entails the military or first responders, the first lesson is that uniforms speak of position. Whether it is a police officer in her dress blues or a U.S. marine in full combat gear, the uniforms they wear separate them from the rest of society and openly declare their position among the rest of us.
Going one step further, uniforms also denote position within a common group. The military is a splendid example. Subtle uniform differences denote rank. The higher the rank, the less subtle those differences are.
2. Uniforms Command Respect
Lesson number two is that uniforms command respect. We know this to be true in the military and first responder environments, but it is also true elsewhere. Consider two football teams. One wears uniforms and the other wears shorts and T-shirts. Which team garners more respect? Which team would you perceive as being a tougher opponent?
3. Uniforms Create Group Identity
One of the more fascinating aspects of Flynn’s piece was his discussion about how men naturally desire to be part of a group. This actually applies to people of both sexes, but Flynn’s article was specifically talking about men. The greater point is this: we all desire to be part of a group that is bigger than ourselves. Uniforms help create identity with such a group.
Have you ever noticed how motorcycle clubs have their own colors? Those colors are designed to identify each member of the club to the exclusion of non-members. Members take great pride in their colors and the identity they create.
4. Uniforms Present an Image
Irrespective of any one particular type of uniform, all uniforms present some sort of image. This is why they are so important to a lot of companies. According to uniform rental pioneer Alsco, company uniforms are one of the most effective tools for presenting the right image to customers. Of course, that image has to be backed up with impeccable service and high-quality products, but a company’s image can be the difference between success and failure.
5. Uniforms Encourage Personal Pride
The fifth and final lesson is that uniforms encourage personal pride. It is a lot like putting on formal wear for a night out. You have one mindset when you’re wearing jeans and a T-shirt and a completely different mindset when dressed up in an evening gown or a tuxedo. Wearing formal wear just makes you feel more important, more respected.
Wearing a well-designed uniform can produce those same feelings. A good uniform makes a soldier proud to be part of the Armed Forces. It makes an athlete proud to be a member of the team. Likewise, a well-designed company uniform encourages employees to be proud of who they work for.
Throughout history you can see that uniforms have played a key role in society. They are as important today as they have ever been in the past.