HSBC has just lately launched what it calls a “extra informal” uniform for its department workers, together with jumpsuits and denims, “menopause-friendly” clothes, in addition to “ethnic put on”. The uniforms goal to make workers instantly seen to prospects and in addition sign a transparent company message of a pleasant, approachable excessive road financial institution.
Final 12 months, Virgin Airways introduced that workers might put on any model they want of its Vivienne Westwood-designed workers uniforms, giving house for private expression of gender id.
Such modifications trace on the difficulties concerned in understanding what to put on at work, particularly for ladies working in places of work or in buyer – and client-facing roles. With no uniform – be that employer-designed or a feminine model of the normal work swimsuit – girls have typically needed to forge their very own id at work.
It is because, prefer it or not, work garments are essential. They mirror the id of each worker and employer, in addition to standing. Garments talk key info and affect how others understand the wearer.
In a company surroundings, clothes additionally displays the id of the organisation. Many companies nonetheless see what staff put on as an essential indicator of their model and it additionally impacts perceptions of staff on a person foundation. That is the case with uniforms, in addition to when girls put on their very own garments to work.
Our analysis on workwear for ladies in banking within the Seventies exhibits how Barclays Financial institution used uniforms as a branding software, but additionally signifies the position gender has performed in girls’s work garments over time. This work was potential because of entry offered by Barclays Group archives.
We seemed on the introduction of a brand new position – the private banker – by Barclays within the Seventies. This was an entry-level place, based mostly totally on the store flooring, participating with prospects and being extra approachable and out there than conventional clerks or financial institution managers. Within the early days, the place was largely held by girls and there was a corresponding uniform (see picture) of a blue two-piece skirt swimsuit with a white shirt.
Feminine private bankers, on the entire, appeared to get pleasure from sporting this uniform. Our analysis exhibits they noticed it as an equal to the male enterprise swimsuit, that gave them a way of legitimacy and standing that they didn’t have within the historically male banking world.
It’s telling then that the small variety of male staff that have been private bankers at Barclays within the Seventies didn’t have uniforms. These in cost on the time most popular “to restrict the sporting of uniforms to the women”, based on a doc despatched between two senior workers members on September 3 1979 that we discovered within the archive.
To today, dark-coloured, “wise” work fits convey the traditional picture of a banker in sober, critical, skilled apparel. This “uniform” is a transparent sign of authority and standing within the office.
Fits have additionally been adopted by girls, after all. However they nonetheless are likely to have extra selections to make than males, even when they put on a swimsuit to work: trousers or skirt, size of skirt, cloth color, boots or sneakers, heel peak, neckline, equipment – the record goes on. And the choices they select can have an effect on how they’re seen by bosses, colleagues, purchasers and prospects.
Certainly, paperwork from Barclay’s archives confirmed that managers felt girls have been capable of present the private, caring and relationship-based strategy in branches that it was in search of on the time. And the uniforms have been an try and help the financial institution’s considering round this type of branding. One inside advertising and marketing report from 1979 mentioned:
We consider that uniforms create an angle of thoughts on behalf of those who put on them … and an improved notion of the financial institution on behalf of our prospects. They strongly reinforce the concept we’re doing one thing completely different to what now we have executed previously.
Numerous analysis has discovered that perceptions of ladies within the office are nonetheless influenced by the best way they costume, typically in a manner that perceptions of males should not. This analysis has discovered that clothes deemed to be “unsuitable” by colleagues or prospects may end up in girls being seen as much less competent or of decrease standing than males in the identical working surroundings.
One of many research above concludes:
Clothes is sufficient of a cue for individuals to make important character judgements. An essential implication of our outcomes is that not following clothes guidelines can have a unfavourable impression on how individuals understand girls.
In fact, what many individuals put on to work has turn into progressively extra relaxed for the reason that Seventies. Pre-COVID, many companies had “dress-down” Fridays or “enterprise informal” costume codes. However the adoption of relaxed clothes actually ramped up when many individuals have been working at house throughout the COVID lockdowns.
This has continued since, with swimsuit gross sales falling lately – even Goldman Sachs relaxed its costume code for some workers. However latest experiences recommend that UK girls working remotely throughout the world pandemic have been nonetheless being requested by firms to look extra enticing to win new enterprise.
So, whereas extra relaxed clothes and even gender-neutral uniforms are being launched in places of work, banks or on planes, plainly girls nonetheless have some method to go by way of perceptions of their work being based mostly on their look. A continued shift in attitudes, not simply company clothes, continues to be wanted.
The authors don’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that will profit from this text, and have disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.