Only two weeks into the job hunt and I’ve given up one of my principles. Having divested myself of the hated suits I endured for my career’s sake I swore that I would not put on another uniform. Much less one primarily consisting of synthetic fabrics in unappealing colours. Such as you might find in a local supermarket and to which I have reluctantly applied. At least the air conditioning intended for the customers and stock should as a side effect prevent me from sweating too badly.Now I can see that there are a whole raft of good reasons why a company might want its staff to wear uniforms. In some factories there may be stringent hygenic applications. And a police officer or nurse needs to be instantly recognisable. But I wonder at the emphasis put on uniform in shop staff when surely all that is needed is a badge to let customers know they are staff? In many shops this is the case and it seems to work perfectly well. I have no problem identifying them anyway. They’re the ones walking round wearing badges or standing behind the tills.
One thing uniforms do, obviously enough, is create uniformity. They erase the traces of individuality and self. Prisoners are made to wear uniforms which seem deliberately designed to be unflattering and of cheap fabric. So do supermarket workers. There may be a whole host of good reasons for the company why they want their staff in uniform as this article from Psychology Now sets out.

I can’t help but notice though that from the staff’s point of view, the effects are all rather negative. Its all about control and the deliberate removal of their uniqueness. If I were a policeman or nurse then my role would carry authority and its easy to imagine that the uniform would be something that I was proud to wear, an emblem of my vocation. Indeed as an MPs researcher I hated taking off my pass outside the building (a security requirement), I was proud to hold that position. As a shelfstacker I somehow can’t envisage that I will feel the same.