Uniform and Uniformity

15 Mar

In my current job I have to wear a uniform – so four days a week I get up and put it on. Initially I used to say to myself ‘Oh, what will I wear today? I know, black trousers, a grey blouse etc.’ Now I don’t even think about it. I pin on my badge and off I go. What does continue to annoy is the uniformity of the look – no nail varnish, no crazy hair colours, no ostentatious jewellery, so the result is if you’re looking for a woman in her prime with a brown bob, wearing black trousers and jacket, you’ve got about 5 to choose from – and that’s just on my shift. And that’s what the company want, which I’m happy with for the business, but it means that when I get home I want to reassert my own personality (such as it is).  So the rings go on, and beads or a necklace, on Thursdays the nails get painted (only for the varnish to be removed by Sunday) and I get into my own clothes.

What we wear defines us, so it’s a bit weird to be stripped on that. But as a writer it lets me look at what I want to project through my clothes, which isn’t the same thing every day, leaving me with a mish-mash of a wardrobe where things rarely go together. If I’m going to a literary event then I’ll try to look writerly, but mostly I’m in my denims and a big jumper trying to keep warm (the real writer look).

What do clothes say about our characters? I once had to meet with a woman I was a bit terrified of – she was very powerful, and a good word from her was like gold dust. But I relaxed the minute I saw the big line across her jumper which had obviously been grabbed from her clotheshorse. She lost some of her image, but I could relate to her on a more personal level, and I think I performed better as a result.

In my early 20s I had to wear a uniform which was the same shape and colour as my school uniform. I was trying to establish myself as a professional librarian, but the blue cardigan didn’t help. Then there was the barmaid’s uniform that was a size too small and very low cut, so was pinned at a much less revealing level with a big safety pin.

What’s the worse thing you’ve ever had to wear for work? PS I’m trying and failing to figure out a way to make your comments visible, so if anyone has any ideas please let me know. In the meantime, you’ll just have to continue clicking on View Comments.

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