The Power of The Uniform

Paul Russell of Luxury Academy London talks us through the psychological and emotional benefits for staff that can come through uniforms.

When Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff talked on Radio 2 recently of his putting on the England cricket kit and becoming like a different person: “It was like Clark Kent going into a phone booth and coming out as Superman”, it really described the power of the uniform. In hospitality, the uniform is intrinsic to many roles, but how exactly does it help us in our jobs?

Whether it’s the tailored suit of the front desk manager, the formal attire of the concierge or the classic appearance of the maître d, many consider that uniforms are simply about recognition and enabling guests to instantly identify staff that can assist them. Of course, uniforms are also about ensuring consistency in guest experience, creating positive perceptions and reinforcing brand values but actually, for the staff member, they are a far more powerful tool.

What Andrew Flintoff was describing was the utilisation of a uniform as a costume or prop, and how wearing his cricket whites took him from Andrew the “reflective introvert” to Fred the “extroverted entertainer”, giving him the confidence that he felt he didn’t naturally possess. In this way, Flintoff was able to take the lead and perform his job to the best of his ability. It’s a form of psychological preparation with the wearing of the uniform symbolising that transition from home to work mode.

Like Andrew, many of us have to perform in roles and demonstrate skills and behaviours that don’t come naturally to us but the uniform becomes that magic talisman that tells us that we can be successful. We might not need to “own the ground” like Flintoff, but we might need to own front of house, or the restaurant floor, and our uniform put is in the right mind-set to do this.

For Flintoff, the power of his cricket whites was tied up in his pride at playing for his country, it’s not the actual clothing that inspired the confident showman personality he wished to convey but what the clothing represented to him, what if offered, how it made him feel. It is not enough for a brand to simply order great uniforms and expect a transition in staff performance and morale, the uniform should be the last step in a systematic commitment to staff development and brand management.

And of course, as the shift ends and the magic talisman is removed, the staff member is able to return to normality, providing a psychological and emotional break. Flintoff talks of his regular life as just playing at home in the garden with the kids and it was perhaps the humble uniform that enabled him to perform the dual and somewhat diverse roles that his life demanded. So the next time you go to put on your uniform for work, you might think about the confident, assured and professional person it could enable you to become.

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