A brief history of workwear and uniforms

For many, a uniform can be a privilege to wear. It shows that you are part of a set team aligned to a specific brand. From the employer's side, corporate clothing can be extremely useful too for productivity, efficiency, and most importantly employee engagement.

But did you know that work uniforms are part of a long history and tradition of the workplace?

The first uniforms

Uniform history

Historical research suggests that the first semblance of work uniforms can be traced back to the middle ages. During this time, workers would wear badges on their own clothes to denote their specific job role, or to align themselves with a certain employer, often the army or in service of Lords. This allowed them to quickly prove their legitimacy when carrying out their services and also allowed for ease of recognition by others.

Merchants who belonged to specific guilds also wore badges to show that their work and goods were deemed to be a high enough quality for acceptance, showing to the people that these merchants could be trusted. A similar legitimacy applies to many organisation's uniforms today.

Later work uniforms

Logo being embriodered

Badges representing workers in service to a specific person were soon replaced with liveries. These are items of clothing that are covered with colours, house seals, and crests all relating to the family being served. These were especially common throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, with many important households requiring their staff to wear specific liveries. Being in the employment of a notable house was often seen as an honour, so liveries were worn with pride. In a sense, this tradition of wearing colours and crests to represent who you work for is still carried on by employees today, by wearing branded uniforms in the colours associated with their employer.

Modern uniforms

Employee engagement

The rise of modern work uniforms can be tied to the growth of chain companies who began to operate in different areas. By having a single uniform that employees would wear regardless of the area they operated in, would give customers the reassurance that they would receive the same service wherever they were. This familiarity also helps customers to quickly recognise a brand, even in a different location.

Uniform wear is of course evolving with time, more consideration is being given to diversity in the workplace and many uniforms incorporate technological features, or are adapted to suit the technology the wearer will be using. Style and personal safety are also key consideration and new fabrics, with distinct advantages for the wearer, are being introduced.

How we can help you

Cobmex Brochure Image

It’s interesting to think that corporate workwear, a feature of many a company's brand, started from the tradition of uniform badges. It does show how uniforms have helped companies throughout the ages, and still helps them today. It is also worth noting that the reasons why uniforms were originally adopted still rings true, as benefits in today's evolving fast paced environment. We understand the significance to employers and employees of a good uniform and are here to help.