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Keeping up with Kendall: Autonomy granted by personal fashion choices in workplace

Recently, I acquired my first job where there were no uniforms, or any dress code at all, for that matter. I was able to dress however I wanted, and as someone who loves fashion, the thought of being able to put together fun outfits for my job actually made me look forward to my shifts, and trust me when I say that I am not someone who likes to work. 

This was not even an especially fun job; it was not bad, but it was nothing special. Yet, I do not think I have ever had so much fun at a job nor so much passion for one, and I fully believe that a great deal of that was thanks to my personal fashion choices. It made customers like me more: they would compliment my outfit and I would compliment theirs back, sparking many conversations that fostered a great deal of personal connections with many of the customers.

These personal connections weren’t just great for me; they also benefited my employers because they made the customers trust me more, leading them to buy more products. My overall mood was generally more positive because I felt like me, not just another employee. In my experience, all jobs have made me feel trapped because of the monotony of sitting somewhere where you’re repeating the same tasks for hours on end, dressed like everyone else there, and staring at the torturously slow clock hand, just begging it to reach clock-out time.

This job was not different in any of these aspects except for the being dressed like everyone else part, yet I felt a world’s difference. My personal fashion selections gave me choice, they gave me a greater sense of identity, they gave me a greater feeling of autonomy. In a society that prioritizes labor and money over human beings, that is not a feeling that we are often granted in workspaces. 

This had me asking the question: Would people like working more and/or perform better at their jobs if they did not have to wear uniforms? Research suggests the answer is yes. There is no denying that fashion is a form of self-expression and a creative outlet (having a creative outlet is in and of itself essential to fostering good mental health.) 

Even the famous Marie Antoinette utilized fashion to grant herself a sense of autonomy and control in a time when she had absolutely none. Research from Templeton University shows these sentiments to be especially true in the workplace. These researchers conducted multiple studies to find out if what one wears can affect their work performance. They found that people often associate what they are wearing with their own physical attractiveness, and of course, one feels confident when they feel attractive. They also found that when employees thought that they looked good and that their outfits were unique, they had a higher sense of self-esteem, which caused them to be more productive and more likely to achieve their personal goals throughout the day.

In writing about their findings for this study, researchers Joseph K. Kim, Brian C. Holtz and Ryan M. Vogel said, “A 10-day field study of employees from four organizations generally supported our predictions, showing that daily clothing aesthetics and uniqueness had effects on state self-esteem and downstream behavioral consequences.”

There are some benefits to wearing a uniform at work, however. Uniforms can prevent tardiness, help customers to locate employees and lend companies with a more well-rounded aesthetic and brand. However, I do not believe that these factors should be prioritized over the feelings and overall productivity of employees. Ultimately, these problems can be solved. 

Name tags can signify to customers that one is an employee, a uniform is not necessary in achieving this. Companies also have other ways to establish an aesthetic for themselves and will likely be regarded as unique and open-minded for allowing their employees to dress as they’d like. As far as preventing tardiness, that is the individual responsibility of the employee anyway, they should plan out their outfits accordingly. The benefits of not wearing a uniform outweigh those of wearing one.

The professional world is changing; this can be seen through the recent de-stigmatization of tattoos, piercings and dyed hair in the workplace. I suggest that it keeps evolving to allow employees to feel like people, not machines. One way this can be done is by allowing them to dress as they wish. It will pay off for everyone involved.

Kendall Bergeron is a junior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Kendall know by emailing her at

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