I first heard the term "work uniform" in spring 2015, when I read an article in Harper’s Bazaar about an art director’s decision to wear the same outfit to work every day. Matilda Kahl wrote that this one choice saved her countless wasted hours wondering what she was going to wear — and a ton of money she used to spend on work clothes.
Though it’s unconventional, many successful people wear a work uniform — Mark Zuckerberg has his grey T-shirts, Steve Jobs had his famous black turtleneck, and Barack Obama wore a blue or grey suit nearly every day of his presidency.
I may not be as busy as Mark Zuckerberg, but I’m a father, a husband, the son of ageing parents, a freelance writer, and the editor of a travel site.
Waking up knowing what I’m going to wear is one less thing I have to worry about.
In the winter of 2016, when I went to work as an editor at Muscle & Fitness, I witnessed people wearing a work uniform — in this case, it was the style director and style editor of our sister publication, Men’s Fitness. I sought the latter’s help in setting up a work uniform for myself.
He gave me some advice: Choose basic colours, no wild patterns, and you must feel comfortable wearing it. And of course, buy enough to get you through the week or longer.
I started with a pair of slim-fit dark blue jeans, a navy-blue gingham shirt, and a pair of brown dress shoes.
Then I expanded my work uniform a bit to accommodate the different seasons. Now, my uniform consists of a rotation of staples: performance pants (six pairs), gingham shirts (five), short-sleeve button-downs (four), sweaters (three), jeans and corduroy pants (three pairs), and one pair of shoes that I replace every year.
When I would tell people about wearing a work uniform, they would often ask, “Doesn’t anyone notice?” Nobody does. You even forget you’re doing it. My colleagues knew only because we discussed it. My wife never even noticed.
A haircut, new glasses, or changes to facial hair are much more noticeable than your work uniform. Your outfit is a constant, and people get used to seeing it.
Because I felt so comfortable in these new clothes, I felt more confident in the work I was doing.
My mind was clearer, because I didn’t start my day racking my brain over what to wear, causing a domino effect of stress. I felt like I was better able to focus my decision-making energy. I decided to keep going with the work uniform.
When you wake up tomorrow and get dressed for the day, consider that change may not be good when it comes to work attire. The easiest decision is when there’s not one to be made at all.