During the nineteenth century, officers who could afford to had their uniforms made-to-order by tailors who followed the uniforms regulations published by the government. Some prominent uniform suppliers published their own summaries of the regulations and added illustrations and pattern drawings. The widespread need for uniforms during the nineteenth century led to the development of factories that produced ready-to-wear as well as made-to-measure uniforms. Eventually, large department stores offered a whole range of civil uniforms, including very richly embroidered ones.
By the end of the twentieth and the beginning of the twenty-first century, an increasing section of the fashion industry was specializing in the production of corporate wear. According to Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), the National Association of Uniform Manufacturers and Distributors estimates that the American "career apparel" industry is worth at least $6 billion. International companies as large as McDonald's potentially spend as much as $60 million a year on their uniform programs (Fast Food Fashion).
Today the industry offers a wide variety of clothes ranging from simple standard items, such as T-shirts and sweaters individualized by embroideries and corporate colors, to complete corporate fashion lines. When a large organization decides to introduce new uniforms it usually follows a long procedure. Well-known designers are hired to work very closely with the executive management in order to develop a unique design that communicates the company's corporate image. Before ordering new uniforms, prudent companies find out their employees' wishes and expectations and have them test sample garments to determine whether the uniforms can fulfill the requirements of practical function, quality, and comfort.
In times of economic instability the importance of corporate fashion grows as the image of a company can determine its failure or success in an increasingly competitive market. As a result, the British marketing company Up &
Down Marketing and Management Consultancy forecasts considerable growth for the corporate wear market, climbing from 168.6 million garments in 2000 to nearly 200 million garments in 2010 in Europe. At the same time, corporate fashion is spreading to more types of companies. Besides airlines, railways, and postal services, which continue a long tradition, a wide variety of service industries make increasing use of corporate wear, such as grocery stores, shopping malls, department stores, entertainment parks, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and cleaning companies.
The definition of the occupational uniform should not be confused with certain traditional professional garments. The white coats of doctors, and the caps or berets and long gowns of professors, judges, or priests are typical for their profession in some countries. Although these items of clothing communicate symbolic messages and emphasize the special social status and profession of the person, they do not function as uniforms because their shape usually is not precisely prescribed by the employer, nor do the garments necessarily carry badges indicating function or hierarchical status within a larger organization.
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UNIFORMS, SCHOOL School uniforms have their historical antecedents in very old traditions. If understood broadly, "students" have donned special garments to set themselves apart for religious (monastic and priestly training) and economic purposes (apprentices wearing guild attire) for centuries. However, school uniforms as understood in their modern sense are a particular manifestation of a more general uniformization of populations apparent from about the early nineteenth century. This regulation of appearance is more specifically understood as "standardizing" and "disciplining" workers and citizens to meet the requirements of industrialization, capitalism, and national loyalty. Though historically some schools mandated uniforms for religious reasons or to maintain their "tradition," by and large school uniforms have been ideologically inspired by a notion that bodily control and regulated appearance beget social order, within the school and in society at large.
Practical Considerations and Functional Criteria for School Uniforms
Though the debate about the actual merits of student uniforms continues in the United States, advocates of school uniforms believe there are key elements to the successful uniformizing of a student body. These include: determining the style of uniforms should involve teachers, school administrators, parents, and students; uniforms should be affordable and available in all sizes; seasonal options should be available; the wearing of uniforms should be mandatory while allowing for special exemptions; recycling programs are suggested, as are the selling or trading of used uniforms; and uniforms should be introduced in the early grades first so students become accustomed to them as they progress through the higher grades.
School authorities might consider mandating age or grade-specific uniforms. Additionally, school authorities and educational administrators ideally should offer a variety of uniforms that are appropriate to gender and local weather conditions.
As for the materials used, important considerations include: durability (how many years it can be worn); dirt-resistant colors; colors that suit most complexions (for example, many suggest that bright red is discouraged since it does not flatter many people's natural coloring); fits all shapes and figure types; washa-bility (preferably, materials should require little—or even no—ironing or dry cleaning); small two-way patterns for economical use of fabric.
Special climatic conditions should be assessed. For example, in Australia and New Zealand, there are criteria for "sun-safe" school uniforms. Or in other places, winter uniforms must be loose-fitting enough for individuals to layer clothes underneath the uniform.
Other practical considerations include degree of adjustability; comfort (enough so that students are not inhibited from engaging in typical school activities); how available mandated uniforms are at local outlets; if uniforms are within the price range of all students; and choosing an appropriate seller and supplier of uniforms.
Obviously, with so many students, selling school uniforms can be extremely profitable, and any in-depth analysis must explore the agenda of apparel manufacturers in advocating the use of school uniforms. Besides clothes manufacturers, giant retail chains such as JCPenney, Sears, Macy's, Target, Wal-Mart, and Kids "R" Us sell school uniforms.
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