When I was in the fifth grade, my public elementary school switched over to uniforms to bridge the gap between the different socioeconomic groups students came from. As a self-absorbed 11-year-old who had just begun experimenting with what the Limited Too had to offer, I was not crazy about this idea. But by the time I entered a new middle school, I was a very awkward 13-year-old who would have given anything to wear a uniform.
As an adult, I love the freedom to dress as I please at my new “office.” But I do remember the days of getting up at 5 am (I used to work in morning news) and searching around in the dark to find something clean, appropriate and “new” to wear to the office. Many days, it didn’t turn out so well. I would have gladly cut out all the hemming and hawing and worn a uniform.
Turns out, I’m not alone. Many of the most successful men wear “uniforms.”
Steve Jobs wore a black turtleneck every day. Mark Zuckerberg favors gray t-shirts. Did you know fashion designer Giorgio Armani wears the same navy silk shirt every day? Think about Karl Lagerfeld. (Read this New York Times article on all the big name uniform-wearers).
When you think about it, men who wear a suit and tie to work every day have a built-in uniform, as well. So technically, this isn’t a new concept.
What is new is the concept of women wearing the same thing to the office every day. It seems to be all over the internet lately. Women are coming out of the woodwork to tell their stories of how and why they developed a daily “uniform.”
Matilda Kahl wrote an article for Harper’s Bazaar on why she has worn a white blouse and black pants to work every week for the past three years. (As the art director at a leading advertisement firm in New York, she could be considered the new generation of Mad Men.)
“The simple choice of wearing a work uniform has saved me countless wasted hours thinking, ‘what the hell am I going to wear today?’ And in fact, these black trousers and white blouses have become an important daily reminder that frankly, I’m in control,” Kahl writes.
Powerful stuff. Do you ever feel like fashion controls you? Sometimes I do. Why do I feel compelled to buy new and trendy clothing when I have a closet full of clothes?
Unfortunately, society plays a large role. For example, Roll Call singled out Federal Reserve Chariwoman Janet Yellen for wearing the same black suit to several events!
Elaheh Nozari adopted a denim shirt/black jeans uniform as a way to curb her insatiable urge to shop. She changes the shoes and accessories to keep the minimalist look fresh, she writes in XO Jane.
“People notice if you wear the same thing over and over, right? Based on my own experience… they don’t. And even if they do, who cares?,” Nozari writes.
“The people whose style I admire most — fashion editors like Emmanuelle Alt, designers like Isabel Marant, celebrities like Sofia Coppola — all stick out in my mind because they have a signature look. Adopting such sameness in your daily appearance can only be achieved if you feel comfortable enough not to care what others think. My uniform has helped me to not only curb my shopping habit, but boosted my confidence.”
Meanwhile, Helin Jung at Cosmopolitan tried the uniform thing for an article but couldn’t get beyond four days. She confesses that by Day Two of the experiment she worried that her co-workers would think she had “an unexpected sleepover.” By Day Four, a co-worker inquired if her apartment had burned down.
“By the end of the week, I couldn’t stand the Look anymore. Wearing the clothes every day and feeling so self-conscious had turned positive feelings about a lovely outfit into bitterness and resentment,” she writes, adding “The struggle, I think…is that in order for a person to pull that off, it has to feel like second skin. The Look has to be You, manifested in clothes.”
Could you wear a uniform? What would it be? Mine would be something like:
But man, I would really miss stripes. Interested in more?