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Uniform through the ages

Uniform… what is it? It is part of a company’s identity, something that makes each individual feel like part of a team. Historical research suggests that the first semblance of work uniforms can be traced back to the Middle Ages. A part of uniform that hasn’t changed drastically would be the tradition chef’s hat, the first example of this was said to have been seen in the 1900’s. Throughout different centuries uniform has changed for many different reasons, it may be to indicate a job role or who the individual works for. You may find wearing your uniform a privilege, others may find it a chore but nonetheless it makes you part of a long and rich history of workers who were required to wear uniform even if they didn’t want to. As we progress to the modern day, we can see businesses adapting new approaches when it comes to workwear, such as - sustainable uniforms.

This topic was rarely the centre of conversation within industry like it is now. Businesses are also realising the importance of a wearer’s happiness at work, and the effects it can have on performance if a member of staff doesn’t feel 100% comfortable. There have been studies to indicate that uniform can be a key element of consideration when it comes to accepting a new job, so it is important to ensure a business gets this right. A study from Warwick University indicated that workers who are happy are 12.5% more productive. In the context of uniform, it means individuals who wear a well-made, well-fitting uniform that enables them to do their job are 21.92% happier

For more information on this, please email us at as we have a new Research Report that contains more insightful statistics relating to how uniform impacts the wellbeing and productivity of employees.


During the Middle Ages some workers were required to wear badges to indicate the job role they had within a certain business, as well as badges to highlight the company they worked for. Not all badges during this era were related to work as some related to achievements for example. There was an extremely important kind of badge called a pilgrim, this was worn similarly to a festival wristband. It was a key indicator of a Christian who had returned from pilgrimages to Canterbury or Rome. Work badges were a simple, quick and effective way to prove a person’s legitimacy when carrying out their services of work. Merchants who belonged to specific guilds also wore badges to show that their work and goods were deemed to be of a high enough quality for acceptance, showing to people that they could be trusted. Businesses in today’s world still use badges to display names of staff, especially within retail – this is extremely helpful to customers within stores, and it also can create a more relaxed environment between a member of staff and a customer as they already know their name. Badges can also be used at event conferences to display a person’s name and company; this can be a great point of conversation as well as being more professional.


After the badge era, servants at European courts were required to wear liveries. These were worn in the 18th, 19th, and 20th century. They were often supplied to the staff by the employer and came in specific colours alongside badges, to identify a worker’s ranking and job title. Court liveries were the first official uniforms in Europe. The name originated from the French word ‘liver’, which meant ‘to deliver’. The uniforms in 18th century Germany were distinguished by the servant’s ranks. Uniforms had a dual purpose then: to set the servants apart from the public and to show the financial capacity of their masters.

Workwear in the current world

In today’s world uniform helps to draw a line between what is formal and what is classed as informal, however this somewhat remains a blur due to the new norms within society. People tend to experiment more and be more creative with their style. Workplaces have relaxed dress codes to allow a touch of individuality which have resulted in a rise in casual uniforms. The concept of ‘dress-down Friday’ has flourished where, for example, some businesses allow employees to wear jeans for added comfort on set days. This is not the case for all though, as some companies still have regulations when it comes to workwear especially in blue-collar jobs. On the whole in the modern world, workwear and uniform provides people with a sense of identity and a feeling of being part of a team.

Especially during post pandemic times, it seems businesses are implementing a more relaxed attitude with regards to uniform. This is evident with less authoritarian dress codes and/or no working from home dress code. It was only a few months ago that a key element of everyone’s uniform included PPE, and many businesses still allow staff to wear face masks as part of their uniform.

It is great to see that businesses are taking on the feedback from staff as they are the main wearer of uniform. Receiving any critique can help increase the individual’s performance at work, which in turn will improve productivity and wellbeing.