Would you wear a self-imposed work uniform?
When we launched the Workstyle section of our blog, we didn’t intend to write about fashion, but we couldn’t help covering the topic of work style on Workstyle.
What can we say — we’re into the meta nature of things. Some of us are familiar with school uniforms but we don’t typically associate uniforms with work — at least not in the office environment. Unless of course you conjure up images of Steve Jobs in his famous black turtleneck, Mark Zuckerberg and his gray t-shirt, and the uniforms many men wear to work every single day: the shirt & tie, and the suit.
But recently, the topic of work uniforms has become the talk of the Internet — art director Matilda Kahl wrote about her conscious commitment to a self-imposed work uniform in Harper’s Bazaar; she argued that the decision has not only saved her money, but simplified her morning routine and freed up mental energy she now puts toward her creative work.
We asked Asanas — specifically female Asanas — how they felt about work uniforms, the pros and cons of uniforms, and if any of them have established work uniforms themselves. Responses varied: many female Asanas felt that the conversation felt unnecessarily gendered; some expressed that outfit choices were a representation of confidence and power in a male-dominated industry, while others still were open to the idea of a uniform — they just needed some styling help. Calling J.Crew’s Jenna Lyons, who arguably has a solid work uniform nailed down.
“I’ve basically taken the opposite approach as Matilda by trying different looks almost every day. Partly because I enjoy experimenting with fashion trends, but also because I see this as an opportunity to challenge standards and expectations of women in a male-dominated industry. I want my dynamic style to contribute to my ability to show this world that women are multidimensional beings who can be smart and technical and powerful and feminine at the same time.” — Sam Goertler, product manager
“The clothing I wear provides an outlet to showcase my personality. However, it also opens up strangers’ abilities to make quick (and often unfounded) judgments purely based on what they see. I think that a set uniform strips away a lot of personal stress around clothing choices but I wonder if it truly stops the snap judgments of others since Matilda Kahl herself said people were hung up on why she was wearing the same thing every day.
Plenty of people, especially in creative roles, have embraced uniforms saying it lets them focus their energies on their work rather than on the stress of finding the most dynamic, interesting outfit in their closets. I never want to be consumed by outfits, options, and pressure, but I do like being able to express myself via my clothing, so don’t know if I’m ready for a uniform.”— Shannon McNeil, customer success
“I grew up wearing uniforms most of my life — until college — and really loved it. It was a way for me to grow up, make judgements, be judged, choose my circles and allow circles to welcome me independent of the latest fashion trends. During my adolescence, I was thankful that on top of everything else, I didn’t have to figure out what clothes were going to make me look or feel cool to my peers. I was happy that my uniforms leveled the playing field.
Now that I’ve grown up, am confident in the person I’ve become and the daily choices I make, I take pride in the fact that my clothes make a statement, whatever that may be. I also like the fact that I live in a bustling city and fashion is a backdrop of fellow commuters, colleagues, and friends.”— Tatiana Armstrong, customer success
“To me, the interesting part here is how gendered the conversation is. There are enough dudes in tech that there’s an understanding of what the “tech uniform for dudes” is, to the point that dudes who have uniforms get less comments than I bet this editor does. If a woman wanted to blend in while they were interviewing, what would she wear? Not a tech t-shirt, because that’s what dudes wear. But yeah, then there’s some extra power to being a woman in tech, and bringing all that feminine (or whatever gender) fashion and smarts at the same time.”— Rachel Miller, engineer
“Like many Bay Area workers, I walk at least a half a mile during my commute, so my “fashion” choices are really about how fun can I dress given how far I plan to walk that day. I have always envied the nursing and medical field’s scrubs; so comfy, easy to launder, relatively economical, and judgment-free.”— Sarah Rudder, web developer
“I’ve thought about this a lot. I’m jealous that there is one uniform that men can wear, and that it scales from formal to informal. The uniform for formal is a suit. Most men’s suits look alike, and women’s suits are all over the board. Most women’s suits look really matronly. For men, the business casual is slacks and a button down, and the next step down is the button down with jeans. Then the least formal is a colored t-shirt and jeans. I’d love for a women’s fashion icon to take the time to establish the counterparts for women for each of those things. I don’t feel that t-shirts feel right on me for the most part, and button down shirts definitely don’t. It’s not a matter of just wearing what men wear.”— Amanda Linden, design
“’Why wear something that isn’t comfortable’ is my [anti?]-fashion motto. I’ve always had self-imposed uniforms, largely because I want my morning routine to be as short and efficient as possible. I basically buy everything from only two stores (Madewell and Everlane), and I’ve been wearing converse sneakers most days since I was a kid. I also have a few tattoos to add a little permanent flair. While there’s a lot of denim and a lot of gray, I like to think my personality makes up for the lack of color in my wardrobe, but I’ll let others be the judge of that.”— Emily Kramer, marketing
“While I haven’t imposed a work uniform per se, I’ve imposed a work outfit process (how Asana…) Every morning, I run through short mental checklist:
- How do I feel today?
- What’s my schedule like?
- What do I want to personify / reflect today?
I enjoy not wearing the same thing everyday. I don’t care if what I wear to work each day is perfect or how it compares to what my male colleagues wear, and I don’t feel like the process of dressing myself is a lot of pressure that extrapolates to the weight of the world on my shoulders (as the article seems to suggest). However, it’s all what you want to prioritize.” — Jerry Sparks, UXR
We’d love to know: how do you feel about self-imposed work uniforms? Sound off in the comments.
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