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The Dos and Don’ts of Your Employee Uniforms in 2024

It’s 2024, and many businesses around the world require that at least some of their employees wear uniforms. It might be your sales team, your service staff, or everyone in your business; whatever the rule, uniforms are a critical part of your brand. That means you need to handle them properly. Getting a uniform is easy, but getting a good uniform that your employees will be happy to wear is quite another. So, let’s talk about the many do’s and don’ts associated with uniforms and how you can make it the best possible experience for both your employees and your customers.

DO: Consider If You Even Need a Uniform

Before going too deep, one question that’s worth asking is whether or not you truly need a uniform. Uniforms aren’t a bad idea in many businesses, industries, and roles, but sometimes they’re unnecessary. No one is going to expect your office workers to be in uniform, right? Uniforms are a key part of branding in customer-facing roles, but back-of-house and home office roles can often thrive more with a dress code instead.

People Wearing Uniform Aprons

Moreover, consider what kind of uniform you need. You want a uniform that can stand up to the things your employees are doing; a thin, dressy polo shirt can look great, but if you’re making your auto mechanics wear it, it’s going to be grease-stained and torn in weeks, which helps no one. A good uniform is proper attire for the job, not just the company.

DON’T: Violate Laws or Regulations with Uniform Requirements

It’s not illegal to require a uniform. However, there are some quirks of various national and state laws regarding uniforms that may be relevant.

A Person Shopping for Uniform Shirts

One of the most common is that uniforms need to be considered a cost of employment. If you require that your employees wear a uniform, you either need to provide that uniform for them or ensure that their compensation is adequate to purchase it. Employees making minimum wage will likely drop below that wage when the cost of uniforms is deducted, and that can be a penalty for your business.

Make sure to look up any local regulations or laws that may apply to your uniform requirements, and make sure you aren’t violating any of them. It might not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but to be an ethical and progressive company, you need to do better than the bare minimum.

DO: Order Uniforms Made from Comfortable Materials

Uniforms can be made from a wide range of materials. Unfortunately, some of the most comfortable materials are not long-lived, and some of the most durable materials are not comfortable or necessarily easy to launder. You need to find the right balance between durability, comfort, and price.

Ethix Merch Polo Shirts

For our money, one of the best things you can do is go for cotton. Modern organic cotton is comfortable and durable and won’t shed microplastics into the environment with every wash. You can also uphold progressive ethics by seeking shirts made by local companies, out of locally produced cotton fabric, and made from locally grown cotton. For example, our cotton polos are entirely locally produced, eco-friendly, and ethically made.

DON’T: Sacrifice Quality and Longevity for Price

One of the biggest mistakes companies make with uniforms is going for the cheapest supplier of uniforms they can.

Employees Wearing Uniforms Handling Fabric

Cheap uniforms may be cheap per unit now, but consider:

  • You’re deferring the cost to the environment by getting your uniforms from overseas producers and having them shipped across the oceans.
  • Your cheaper uniforms are likely not all that comfortable to wear, which adds stress and irritation to your employees and makes them more likely to consider jumping ship for a business that won’t require them to wear something uncomfortable.
  • Cheaper uniforms are less durable, which means they will need to be replaced more frequently, which adds to the cost over time.

On top of all of this, cheaper uniforms are often less well-made than high-quality uniforms. Your employees might wear the uniform, but what does it say to your customers if those uniforms look disheveled and poorly tailored? These kinds of visual impressions are crucial.

DO: Provide Resources and Training for Uniform Care

In some cases, uniforms will have specific care requirements. Elastic materials can’t handle heat and need to be washed on cold. Some materials shrink or degrade more on hot cycles or when hot dried. In some cases, you may even have a uniform that can only be dry-cleaned.

A Professional Cleaning Service

You have a few options here.

  • Provide detailed care instructions and encourage employees to follow them. Not everyone will – some people don’t have the time, resources, or ability to do so – but you can generally improve uniform longevity this way.
  • Offer a stipend for professional cleaning services as needed so your employees can get their uniforms laundered without undue burden on their own budgets.
  • Keep the uniforms on hand in your facilities, and launder and care for them yourself. Some industries and businesses benefit from this option, both to properly care for uniforms and to control when employees can be seen in them.
  • Investigate alternatives that don’t have as stringent requirements on care and switch to options that don’t have as difficult care procedures.

Whichever option you choose, always make sure you have enough budget on hand to replace uniforms. Even if every employee is properly caring for their uniforms, there will still be accidents, stains, and other issues that will require early replacements.

DON’T: Ignore Customer Opinions

Remember that your uniforms are part of the ongoing communication between you and your customers. Your customers, then, will have something to say about those uniforms. Listen to or solicit their feedback, especially if you’re considering changing uniforms.

An Employee With a Customer

Consider examples such as:

  • The retail chain that switched from a distinctive-colored polo top uniform to a less distinctive color with a badge. Customers found it more difficult to identify employees when they needed assistance.
  • A service brand that changed its logo and went from nicely embroidered logos on shirts to much more cheaply screen-printed designs that rapidly faded, giving its employees a worn look.
  • The sports team that changed from an iconic uniform with decades of history to something more “modern” that lost the flare and history that made it special.

These and other examples, both hypothetical and actual, can give you some idea of what to watch for when considering changing up your uniforms. Make sure you’re putting your best impressions first, but more importantly, make sure you know that those impressions are actually favorable.

DO: Source Ethical Clothing from Reputable Vendors

Many brands today are talking a big game about the ethics of their operations. Some brag about being green, or carbon neutral, or making heavy use of recycled materials. Some uphold those claims, while others are essentially just greenwashing their operations for the positive press.

One way you as a company can put your money where your corporate mouth is, so to speak, is to focus on getting your uniforms from ethical and reputable vendors. In our case, that means from local producers, using union or at least USA labor for the production of the clothing. You know our apparel is ethical because we verify it every step of the way, and with our dedication to total transparency, we’re more than happy to talk about every bit of that process.

Ethical Cotton Harvesting

Even if you aren’t sourcing your uniforms from us, you need to verify and validate the vendors you choose to work with, to make sure you’re getting something that isn’t grown by stealing water from rural villages or exploiting near-slave labor for the stitching.

DON’T: Forget to Keep Extras On Hand

Accidents happen. In most cases, a brand will have its employees order their uniforms from a company resource, which then goes to a central warehouse for the company or to a producer like us.

So, what happens if an employee, mid-shift, suffers a spill or is in the unfortunate path of an equipment failure and ends up with a uniform that is soiled and stained? They can’t keep working, but they can’t just clean up in the restroom and be presentable. You can send them home to change, but what if they don’t have another clean uniform on hand? What if their commute is such that it’d be time to leave by the time they got back?

Piles of Extra Clothes

It’s often a good idea to order extras of the uniform in common sizes so you can have them on hand if an employee needs a sudden change mid-shift. You may or may not want to make that a temporary hand-out and it depends on how many extras you keep around, but it’s always good to have spares and backups.

DO: Get Your Uniforms Printed or Embroidered for Your Brand

A uniform is about representing your brand, and that starts with base colors. Perhaps you choose khaki pants, a belt, dress shoes, and a red shirt. Maybe you prefer black pants and a lighter-colored shirt. Whatever your brand colors and identity, expressing that through the base color choices is just the start.

A Man Printing a Shirt

After that, it’s often good to customize. While you aren’t going to be giving most employees logo-emblazoned tracksuits, having a logo on a shirt is itself easy, cheap, and a great way to differentiate your employees from someone else who happens to dress similarly.

This can extend to additional kinds of uniforms as well. Maybe you want overalls, or a jacket, or team hoodies, or branded caps to go along with the rest of the uniform. A cohesive look starts with the choice of item, but it’s pulled together but the customization.

DON’T: Neglect to Consider Working Conditions

Here’s one that applies most to larger brands, especially national or global brands: when considering your uniform, don’t forget to think about the working conditions of the employees who will be wearing it.

What is the weather like? Requiring a heavy and poorly absorbent fabric in a hot outdoor environment is terrible for employees. Similarly, lightweight shirts and other uniform items will be at best covered up in colder weather where your employees will have coats on over the top.

Employees Working Outdoors

What will their duties be? We already mentioned above the idea of making office workers wear a uniform, but there’s also a lot of difference between someone who works directly with machines or performs a dirty job versus someone who operates a cash register or takes orders, or a receptionist or other customer service representative. Make sure the right kind of apparel is available for the right roles, even if this means having different variations of the uniform.

Consider location. If your uniform has text on it, should that text be printed in a different language? There are many factors you can consider.

All of this contributes both to the comfort and happiness of your employees, and to how likely they are to comply with uniform regulations. In extreme cases, if your uniform is poorly suited to the job or the working conditions, they’ll only wear it when someone with more authority than sense is in town for a visit.

DO: Consider Us for your Next Uniform Purchase

Here at Ethix, we pride ourselves on producing customized, affordable items that range from promotional swag and reward items to uniform apparel. It’s not just about having those items available, though; it’s about having the most ethically sourced and sustainably produced items on the market.

A Person Shopping Online With Ethix

So, if you’re in need of uniform items, consider your needs, and then consider our store. You can see everything we have available here, and we’re more than happy to discuss your needs from top to bottom. If you’re interested, we’re also fully transparent and we love to discuss the ethics behind how we source our items, how they’re produced, and even how they’re shipped.

So, whether you’re looking for a new supplier or you just want to try out something different, we’re a great option to consider. Feel free to reach out with any questions you may have!