How to Develop an Unofficial Signature Uniform for Your Team.
Standing out amongst the crowd is more important than ever. In a world where every business owner is able to easily get their message out there, making an impression and being remembered by your clients is imperative. It’s ironic that one of the ways to do this is though creating a consistent look and feel with your team by developing a signature uniform.
Communicating your message effectively is about coming across in a way that is authentic. We want every element of our communication to feel like a natural conversation. Developing a signature uniform for your team should also reflect this. It should look “right”.
Considering a client will make a judgement of your company within seven seconds, we want them to get the right message in that limited window of opportunity. Add to this the fact that only seven percent of communication is verbal and it becomes clear that what your team wears could have a huge impact on the relationship you develop with your clients.
As a small business owner, rather than ordering a stock standard look through a uniform company, start to think about how you can create an ‘unofficial uniform’ that makes it easy for your clients to remember you, instills respect and also amplifies your message. Developing a signature, unofficial uniform for your team is about having a look and feel that is consistent but not too staged.
Here are my top seven tips to help you create a signature uniform with your team:
1. Start by understanding your company culture
Write down the key elements of your company:
Who are your clients?
What do they rely on you for?
What do you want to communicate?
For example my local coffee shop is in an industrial building catering to an artisan, hipster, locally minded community. Their image is edgy and very much focused on DIY coffee. Their signature uniform consists of aprons made of canvas with leather straps, paired with Gingham checked shirts. This look appears edgy and industrial to cater to the demographic, it also represents their artisan coffee DNA which is taken very seriously. At the same time the overall look appears polished and professional.
2. Develop a consistent colour theme.
Find colours that tie into the colours of your branding without it being too obvious or cliche. For example if blue was part of a day care centre’s branding, all the staff could wear a signature dark blue chambray cotton shirt, the women with a feminine fit and neckline and men with a more structured look. The blue communicates the brand and also consistency with the less personal feel of a formal uniform.
3. Have one signature garment feature
Developing a brand and a uniform is very much about consistency. Having one signature item could, for example, be all of your staff wearing a specific style of blazer with a signature pocket and trims. Depending on your industry perhaps all women wear a “black a line dress” (which is a style of dress) and the men wear a black double breasted vest. Or you may requiring that a shirt have a certain style collar and lapel, and be of a specific length. Small details are big communicators but you can see how the signature uniform is a variation on a central theme.
4. Give everyone very clear guidelines on your businesses signature uniform.
It goes without saying that if you have a team that you want to wear white shirts and yet they wear their own personal style of shirt, everyone will have their own take on what that a white shirt should look like. Communicate the guidelines for choosing clothes, be specific and also include expectations on how to wear the items, for example, specify that the items be clean and ironed.
You also need to take into consideration that every person has a different body shape so in order for them to look their best, giving soft guidelines allows each person to find the perfect garment for them while still meeting the needs for a consistent look.
For example if your business is a clinic predominantly staffed by females, you may want all the women to wear white shirts with black skirts or pants. For example to have a consistent look, you may ask that the shirt have a pointed collar and french cuffs and be curved at the hem, the black skirt should be mid calf and the black pants tailored and hemmed at the ankle. This allows for each person to find the right lengths and sizes for them while at the same time fitting the brief.
5. Buy clothes that are made of quality fabrics
A quality fabric will sit well on the body, wash well over time and maintain its colour. Garments made of higher grade fabric will be noticed, felt and of course they communicate quality to your clients, which is clearly a great message when it comes to building your businesses brand. Coming back to the example of the day care centre, if all staff are wearing the blue cotton chambray shirt, a high quality natural cotton would give flexibility, as well as be comfortable and durable in the active environment.
6. Reflect the activities of the company.
Your staff need to wear items that allow them to work comfortably and suit the activities that they need to do as part of their working day. Using the day care example, the staff will be busy, lots of movement and activity, so jersey knit fabrics that stretch and bend with each movement could be best. Stretch knit pants that make it easy to move but also have structure and are tailored are another example. In other words don’t dictate a signature style uniform style for your team to follow that is impractical and uncomfortable.
7. Create a partnership with a local fashion brand or designer
Find a brand that represents the look and feel that you are after. Talk with them about their basic day wear items which are designed to be worn regularly . These could be pieces that they repeat every season. There may be an option to make some signature pieces just for your team. Developing a partnership like this is a great way to create a unique look, that speaks to your customers, your clients and your community.
Having a consistent look for your team is all about reflecting the company culture and personality. Choose items that give a unique look and feel rather than going to a uniform company to buy uniforms from a catalogue. Think laterally about how you want your brand to be represented in a way that each team member can feel like they are wearing a feel good outfit that is a little more fashionable and unique, whilst still enabling them to do their work in an efficient and comfortable way.
The moral to the story is simple, if you don’t want to go down the formal uniform path, and many businesses don’t, developing a signature uniform look and feel for you and your team is a great alternative. It can be a lot of fun, look really smart and instil a strong sense of professionalism and credibility with your customers.