Modern Occupational Uniforms

Since the second half of the twentieth century, the character of occupational uniforms has changed significantly. Reflecting the democratization of Western society, the uniforms' military elements, which symbolized the rank and function within a hierarchical organization, have stepped more and more into the background. Instead, professional uniforms have become part of modern concepts of corporate identity and corporate culture. Called corporate wear or corporate fashion, uniform dress at work is designed to communicate the philosophy of an organization or company and thereby is an increasingly important tool of marketing strategies. Investigations show that corporate fashion can significantly raise the image of a company and thereby elevate its stock-market value. Within a company, uniform dress, which is comfortable, fashionable, and clean, has been shown to improve working performance of employees by increasing their motivation and their identification with their company and fellow workers. A good-looking professional uniform attracts new customers and produces the image of trustworthiness and economic achievement. In his study of the ubiquitous civilian uniform in Japan, Brian McVeigh has revealed how much uniforms discipline the mind and body of Japanese office workers and, at the same time, express a particular economic nationalism in Japan.

The style of corporate uniforms changes according to the message a company wants to convey. The new uniforms for the German airline Lufthansa, introduced in January 2002, for example, are rather conservative. According to the company's public release, Lufthansa wanted their new uniform to convey the values of traditionalism, respectability, service competence, and timeless elegance. Uniforms of national airlines vary in style and are often understood as the business card of an en tire nation. In contrast to Lufthansa, the German Railway decided on more innovative and fashionable uniforms intended to create the impression of a modern inventive company. When the German postal services introduced new uniforms in 2002, they kept the traditional blue and yellow colors but chose a more casual design, emphasizing comfort, function, and a young sportive style. The uniform of the American postal services is less concerned with fashionable change. The uniforms of their letter carriers are designed to adjust to the different extreme climates of the United States and to be instantly recognizable by their particular colors. Fast food companies, such as McDonald's, which cater mainly to young people, frequently dress their employees in cheerful colorful and casual-looking uniforms that correspond to the tastes and lifestyles of children and teenagers.

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