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Uniforms and being naked

Through my career I’ve only worked in a few places where a uniform was required. The first time when working in a supermarket, it makes a lot of sense from a being able to be spotted by customers perspective, but even there, there were employees who would wear their own trousers or skirts because the uniform ones were not “nice” (aka didn’t show off their legs, bums in a flattering way).

When I started working in more corporate environments, I loved being able to get “dressed up”. I mean working in the city in London, getting all business glammed up and then rocking your outfit in a bar after work…living the London life right 😉 I definitely thought I was, but even after a few years into my career, I recall having conversations about uniforms and wishing we had them to remove the “what shall I wear today” internal conversation.

Fast forward to Australia

…and I find myself consulting in the oil and gas and mining industries. This as I’m sure you know comes with high vis, fully covered limbs and steel cap boots. I recently said to a friend that I look like a child in this gear with my little frame. But sure enough, I very much appreciated not wondering what I should wear and keeping my energy focused on what I was delivering for my clients.

Fast forward some more to this year.

I attended a improvisation theatre play back evening. The topic was ‘Fast Fashion, Slow Clothing’ and the panelists discussed the impact of the fashion industry on economy, environment, waste, energy consumption, and the living conditions and wages of those actually making the clothes. It was a really interesting talk, and the evening continued with the improve team playing back key themes, how various audience members felt about the talk. The very last question posed for audience discussion was “why do you wear clothes? Turn to the person next to you and discuss.”

I immediately turned to the gentleman on my right and blurred out,

I wear clothes because I’m not allowed to walk around naked.”

With some surprise, he replied “I wear clothes because they keep me warm”

The performances continued, and my neighbour gave me a nudge to share my “naked story”, and so I did.

Up at the front with the MC, we explored how I came to have and feel the way I did. I revealed how I used to have a huge wardrobe and lots and lots of shoes, and and as much as I have downsized over the years, I probably still do compared to others. However the key exploration was how I fallen in love with myself and my body – with everything of the who and what I am, and as a result feel very comfortable in my body. I know it’s not “perfect” but it’s perfectly mine and everything I asked for in this lifetime.

And cue playback. It was a fabulous performance and my cheeks were hurting from laughing.

At the end, before I went back to my seat, called out “not everyone should be naked.”

So my thinking and reflection continued…

Our obsession with clothes to express who we are coupled with our insecurities of whether what we’re wearing will be judged and how it will be judged.

And I wondered about the workplace once more, where we spend most of our waking life and uniforms.

Being naked:

– we walk around in the skin that we have – this is how we arrived here if we never learn to hide our bodies we never learn to be ashamed of them…

– the fear of judgement is on our various body parts compared to others

– eventually over time we assume a “new normal” of naked, the staring and ogling would likely revert to the same as what is present with our clothed society

Okay there’s still some way off before this is “allowed” beyond nudist colonies. So in between step – uniforms

Wearing uniforms

– moves the focus from the outside to the inside m, because this is who we are, this is what we bring to the party

– needs to be gender neutral clothing, we still see in schools trousers (pants) for boys and skirts for girls which creates identification and separation

– instead of time spent wondering if your clothes look good, seeking validation, feeling bad because someone else looks better than you today…you focus your energy on doing your work and being the best version of you from the inside out

– some of our past and present greatest leaders had a uniform like wardrobe – same thing day in day out because it wasn’t something they wanted to spend there energy on

So what? We should all have uniforms?

Now, I’m still pondering the impact of the fashion industry, so there’s no conclusion per se.

But I open it up to you…

Uniform vs fast-fashion work wear?

Bhavna Patel