Style vs Utility: Which Uniforms Suit Your Business

Getting your company off the ground is no easy task. Anybody who’s managed to get passed the start-up phase deserves to be commended. You did it! You showed those hurdles who’s boss. However, while you may no longer be in the danger zone, a growing business faces some of its own challenges.

When you were “the little guy or gal” you could get away with certain things. You know what I’m talking about. Hand-written quotes, rescheduling meetings at the last minute, showing up wearing just about any outfit you could throw together. Hey! You’re making headway now. People are watching you, so it’s time to step up and show them you’re a professional. And not just you personally. You and your staff now represent your company, and keeping that image positive must always be top priority. Uniforms play a major role in brand consistency and affect how people view your company.

This doesn’t mean you should thoughtlessly assemble random items of clothing and pass them off as a uniform. Its a decision that must have conscious reason behind it. So how do you decide what type of clothing to use for your particular company?

One Size Does Not Fit All

As with many companies, different job roles will require different types of clothing for each department. You should make provisions for this when getting your uniforms designed and manufactured. Unfortunately, one size does not fit all. I’ve been to quite a few business meetings in my time, and some of them have been with clients who provided industrial services to their customers. It’s happened all too often that on my arrival, I would meet the receptionist first, and she (or he) would be dressed in the same type of clothing the hands-on guys are. Quite frankly, I don’t see the need for a receptionist to be dressed in a reflective jacket, utility pants and steel-toed boots.

Uniforms to Exhibit Pure Style

There aren’t many, but certain industries can get away with having uniforms that are designed for style or sophistication and nothing more. One such industry is that of airline companies. Airline uniforms truly epitomise the “dress-to-impress”  philosophy. They may not have any utility apart from covering up, but they have styles that convey a sense of confidence among their staff, leaving passengers no doubt that they’re in good hands.

When the pilot walks through the crowd to board the plane, not a single onlooker doubts his competence. Dressed in a uniform that closely resembles that of a high ranked military official brings comfort to his soon-to-be-airborne passengers. Funny enough, pilots didn’t always dress this way. Commercial airline pilots wore the type of uniform you would see the typical caricature pilot wear: the boots, scarf and bomber jacket outfit. In the 1930s, Pan Am decided they would do something completely different and opted for a more stylish uniform. This saw the other airlines follow suit.

As for the flight attendants. Well it goes without saying just how stunning they are. The designs of their uniforms are simple, yet appealing to most. Their clothing has a way of emitting a certain accommodating presence. It’s very important to feel that you’re taken care of when you’re 10 kilometres above earth with no guarantees you’ll get back.

Something that must be said of airlines, is that they are usually very strict with their staff attire. This extends beyond their clothing and limits their use of jewellery and even shades of make-up and lipstick. A great example of how important consistency in your brand’s design is.

Other Industries That Focus on Style

Other industries that focus on fashion and style rather than utility or protection will be ones like customer representatives and in-store product promoters. As a basic rule of thumb, if your staff aren’t going to need a uniform that provides utility, you could save on costs by focusing on style.

Uniforms That Add Utility to Style

The hospitality industry, unlike the airline one, can’t rely exclusively on style to get by. Hospitality staff are always on the move. They attend to this-and-that to assure their patrons are well looked after and to keep their establishment presentable for new guests. This means that a certain amount of utility must be incorporated into hospitality uniforms. Keep in mind, this does not have to compromise style. It is still very important to look professional. Also, whether they’re chefs or waiters/waitresses, confidence and welcome must always emanate from them.

Now when I see utility, certain things might come to mind. If you’re thinking of clothing that can endure extraordinary conditions, you’re right. But we can take that even further. Utility clothing should be clothes that act as extra hands in the event that yours are full. And more often than not, hospitality staff do have their hands full. Pants, jackets or aprons with deep pockets make a world of difference to how much one can carry in one trip. Even better, providing your staff with belted satchels will make life even more easier for them.

With all of that said, bear in mind, staff in different positions may require different uniforms. We can see this in most hotels. The receptionist will have a uniform which may not be the same as, say, the bartender’s uniform. Yet, they are still both recognised as company employees if their uniforms are designed correctly.

Other Industries That Combine Utility and Style

In general, any company that provides face-to-face, personal services to customers where the job will require tools or products, will need to have some utility and general protectiveness incorporated into their uniforms. Nail technicians (nail salons), massage therapists and beauticians will appreciate uniforms that can allow them to carry their tools and also provide some protection should a product spill or splatter. All of this while keeping themselves looking stylish.

Straight-Up Utility

Many industries have no requirement for style at all. However, whether, you’re in construction, retail or anything in between, make sure your staff are always presentable. This couldn’t be more true for doctors and nurses. People don’t typically feel warm and fuzzy at the mention of a hospital. Hospitals remind most people of something tragic, probably because no worse news could be given anywhere more than a hospital. When doctors deliver that news it must be done responsibly and from someone with an authoritative appearance. They will usually do this in their scrubs or white lab coat.

Nurses uniforms and the white lab coat seen on medical doctors and scientists provide that extra utility and protection as well. Since they usually carry medication, syringes and other equipment on them, deeper pockets makes perfect sense. You’ll also spot surgeons donning their cross trainers which allow them to dash through hospitals on sometimes “slippery-when-wet” floors without endangering themselves and others. Something that you should account for when putting together your uniform.

Other Industries That Opt for Pure Utility

As mentioned, there are many work environments that have no need for style. In general, these jobs involve manual labour or something similar. However, you should note that when dealing with people, one must always be presentable and professional.


When thinking about uniforms, a great idea would be to grab a pen and paper, sit down and jot down your various departments. List the possible hazards and whether or not that particular role will be dealing face-to-face with your clientele. You should avoid unwanted costs and only pay for protective-wear if necessary.

Once you’ve nailed it down and you’d like to have your uniforms designed and manufactured, contact us at Mbatsani Africa Corporate Clothing and we’ll turn your idea into a tangible, working uniform that stays true to your brand.

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