UniformFilter! Help me find cool work uniforms.
August 17, 2007 9:24 AM   Subscribe

I work in a public computer lab at the library. We're thinking it might be nice to have an easily-identifiable uniform so the computer users don't have to go around asking people if they work here. We're thinking shirts only, but we don't really want boring polo-style shirts. (And if you have ideas that include bottoms, bring 'em on.)

We want something that reflects our general geek-hip coolitude. There are nine of us - five girls, four guys - and we range in size from petite to curvy/stout. We're in the south, so no wool! Outdoor temps vary, but it's usually short-sleeved weather indoors.

Oh, and if it helps, our logo is here.
posted by Jaie to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (44 answers total)
What about staff buttons with the logo?
posted by canine epigram at 9:26 AM on August 17, 2007

Are propeller beanies out of the question? Or are they more nerd than geek? Or what about a lab coat? You can get the logo, and just take it off as you leave the lab.
posted by kellyblah at 9:30 AM on August 17, 2007

How about bowling shirts customized w/your library's logo or something.
posted by cog_nate at 9:31 AM on August 17, 2007

Hawaiian shirts are the way to go. Get the same kind for everyone and maybe put the logo on the breast pocket.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:31 AM on August 17, 2007

Ya I'd go with something like a lab coat or some kind of vest like the walmart greeters. One of the advantages of this approach is going forward as personnel change you don't need to be ordering new uniforms.
posted by Mitheral at 9:35 AM on August 17, 2007

For both men and women, I really like button-down oxford cloth shirts. Lands End makes my favorite, logo'd or not. (On preview, Hawaiian shirts sound pretty darn cool too.)
posted by klarck at 9:35 AM on August 17, 2007

You should just make some clergy stoles, but put your logo (and maybe each worker's name) on them. Easy to make and replace -- just a big strip of fabric, basically -- and you can roll 'em up when you take 'em home, or just leave a bunch in the lab for whenever people come to work. Easy-on, easy-off, non-gender-specific. If you use neutral colors like black or white, they'll go with anything, so people can still wear whatever they want underneath.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:37 AM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

I suggest black t-shirts with a small logo on the front.
posted by philomathoholic at 9:41 AM on August 17, 2007

At every one of the public and university libraries I've ever worked at, we wore business-casual clothing and logoed badges. Besides the advantages of cheapness and convenience, the badge holder provides a place to clip keys, security doodads, flash drives, etc. Plus, some people, both employees and patrons, react very badly to uniforms.
posted by box at 9:42 AM on August 17, 2007

Ringer or Raglan T's look slightly less boring than polos, if you can go that casual.
posted by waterlily at 9:44 AM on August 17, 2007

I am going to seconded just easily identifiable id badges of some nature. I have also seen a "Ask Me for Help!" button that was nice.
posted by stormygrey at 9:44 AM on August 17, 2007

Button-down Oxfords or a more casual variety (Hawaiian) would be my top pick, although there's something to be said for just going with t-shirts if it's a casual atmosphere (college library).

I think Walmart-style vests are pretty terrible (up there with propeller-beanie...possibly worse, actually), regardless of their practicality from a management standpoint.

When I worked on a college EMS squad, we needed to decide on uniforms; although our requriements were slightly different, we wanted something that people wouldn't feel uncomfortable wearing around campus (so they could put it on in the morning before work and not feel like they had to go and change right before and right after their shift). We eventually decided on both short and long-sleeved t-shirts, in a dark color, with embroidered (rather than screen-printed) designs. I thought they actually looked rather sharp.

People liked them because they could wear them in a lot of different ways; in the winter, people actually seemed to prefer to wear the short-sleeved tee over top of other things (generally thermal base layers, similar to how you see hospital workers wearing scrub shirts). The long-sleeved ones were popular in the spring and fall.

T-shirts can actually look good if you get quality ones, in a suitable color, and you get the logos on them done the right way (so that they don't start to fall off and look crummy after a few washings).

I'd talk to your team and see what they would find cool to wear. You want their uniform to be a point of pride and belonging, not a symbol of conformity that they're going to resent. Keeping them in the design/selection process will really help that.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:50 AM on August 17, 2007

IMO, Hawaiian shirts SOUND cool, but I made the mistake of that being a team shirt once and it was unbearable to wear on days I was feeling complex. Its fun for far less time than you'd think.
posted by letahl at 10:00 AM on August 17, 2007

Bowling shirts!
posted by thebrokenmuse at 10:10 AM on August 17, 2007

Color coordinated spandex outfits and capes are clearly what you need here.
posted by coryinabox at 10:12 AM on August 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

Shrinky-dink badges/IDs on a string, hung from the neck. Why?

- Logo'd shirts can seem cheezy. And people wearing them may feel that way too, which affects morale/performance.

- Logo'd badges aren't a bad idea, either. But there's something about standard name tags that just makes some people feel weird.

- Shrinky-dinks allow each employee some degree of autonomy and/or creativity. Let people do their own designs, with the one constant rule that each should mention the name of the company or use the logo's colors. It barely matters what's even on each badge, because anyone wearing something from their neck will be easily identifiable as an employee.
posted by diastematic at 10:17 AM on August 17, 2007

Don't do uniforms. Go with name badges or (if you must) plain black vests--but I vote for just name badges. If the staff isn't obviously staff after that, they need to do a better job being proactive about asking patrons if they need help. One of the reasons people choose to work in libraries (as opposed to other places where they could make more money) is that they don't have to wear uniforms.

Seriously. I work in a place that's business casual, and I would start looking for another job if they wanted me to wear a uniform. I'd even take a pay cut.
posted by Violet Hour at 10:18 AM on August 17, 2007

One-piece silver unitards always say "Technology" to me.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:28 AM on August 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

You can get American Apparel t-shirts printed up for not much if you buy them in bulk. Seems like your weather would work with that, although whether your people are chunky or skinny I don't know.

Badges for your org (_not_ name badges) would work, and if it's a small school people will get to know the guys and girls anyway.
posted by tmcw at 10:31 AM on August 17, 2007

I agree -- ID badges seem better than any sort of clothing item. Uniforms tend to get pretty scuzzy looking in a relatively short timespan, and it is annoying to have to change clothes after work and to launder the uniforms in addition to one's normal clothing.

I also believe that it's poor for morale. When Kinko's switched from longsleeve button down shirts + ties + aprons to the current uniforms (which look eerily similiar to Star Trek uniforms...) the employees lost a lot of credibility. We all felt like we'd gone from skilled laborers to fast-food workers. It was disheartening. It also widened the divide between how management looked and how the workers looked.

If the ID badge isn't enough, you might consider some sort of apron. I always liked mine -- it kept my shirt from getting cruddy, and it was handy to store pens/rulers/calculators/knives in.

The current Kinko's apron is a half apron, which isn't bad. Although a lot of people say it makes them feel like they're waiting tables.
posted by ZeroDivides at 10:31 AM on August 17, 2007

If you choose to go the shirt route (instead of, what would be my preference in this situation, the badge holder route), the big challenge may be to find one that is available in a decent range of sizes and/or fits to suit the range of people who work there. If I, as a sort of girly girl myself, had been able to come to work in basically whatever I wanted and then had to wear a boxy t-shirt of button down oxford shirt, it would really bum me out.

I've always hated it when whoever orders the shirts for a group activity gets all Hanes Beefy T's in large and extra large and I'm forced to wear some miserable, baggy thing I'd normally only wear to sleep in out of the house. (Thus my preference for badge holders).

Maybe go with a color and logo that could be applied to different types of shirts (t-shirt, oxford, raglan, whatever)? That would, of course, make getting new ones for staff changes a pain, but it's worth thinking about.
posted by mostlymartha at 10:31 AM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

How about some interesting scrubs? They're light, and I think they're very easy to care for.

Seriously, if it were me, I'd look for some cool hats and have a custom design embroidered on them.

Or superhero capes. Since you do save the day, sometimes.
posted by amtho at 10:46 AM on August 17, 2007


Quick to put on, easy to size, and kind of cool. Don't have to worry about the pinning part of badges. Very easy to spot across the room, even if you're sitting down.

This is the best answer. You know it is.
posted by amtho at 10:50 AM on August 17, 2007

How about just a fat colored ribbon worn around the neck that holds some sort of library emblem on the chest.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 11:07 AM on August 17, 2007

Hats suck. I refuse to wear hats. They make my oversized head sweat and cock up my hair something fierce.

Extra clothing sucks, for all the reasons outlined by all the smart people above.

I'm going to have to go with the prominent badge idea. Or the silver unitard. Ooo, or both!
posted by Aquaman at 11:07 AM on August 17, 2007

You have to ask? Red, ST:TOS engineering shirts. Of course, a statistically unlikely number of you might die...
posted by shothotbot at 11:14 AM on August 17, 2007

I have pushed every company I've worked for to adopt mechanic's coveralls as a uniform, both because they look cool (especially with a logo embroidered on the back and the classic script-embroidered name badge on the front) and because the purchase and cleaning of required uniforms is tax-deductible in the US. I don't like buying my business clothes with after-tax dollars.

But I'm cheap and I like Devo, so YMMV.
posted by backupjesus at 11:18 AM on August 17, 2007

I have to second the lab coats option - they'll make staff stand out visually, the big pockets will hold stuff, and you can them off, hang them up in the staff lounge, even share if need be. Maybe horn-rimmed faux glasses too?
posted by crepeMyrtle at 11:33 AM on August 17, 2007

An identifiable shirt > badges for quickly, easily locating staff. Even with your back to me, helping someone else, I know to approach and wait politely until you are free. With a badge I have to wander around checking out everyone's chest, possibly causing me to forget my question. A high-quality oxford-type shirt in a solid, neutral color will be easy to spot and easy to wear. An embroidered logo on the front will help build the association with the shirt color, over time.
posted by cairnish at 11:33 AM on August 17, 2007

Please, please, please pick a neutral color. I quit my uni lab job partially because the boss instituted a chartreuse polo shirt uniform to increase "visibility". I could have flagged down plans on the tarmac.
posted by sian at 11:34 AM on August 17, 2007

Assuming you have vetoed the silver unitards idea (which is brilliant), I have to go with badges.

They are simple, cheap, professional, easy to see, and convenient. And people don't have to wear goddamn uniforms. Blegh.

I wouldn't have people create their own. In my company we used to make our own name signs for our cubicles on our first day, using company colors and expressing our creativity. Some people enjoyed it but most people preferred it when we switched to normal name plaques. People can express themselves with the rest of their outfits.
posted by tastybrains at 12:01 PM on August 17, 2007

My favourite lanyard "connect @your library" identifies me as staff in my library and gives me a place to hang my usb keys and tamagotchis and other electronic pets. I'm not a uniform kind of person, but if you all want to dress the same it is not my place to smirk.
posted by saucysault at 12:31 PM on August 17, 2007

If I worked there, would be extremely opposed to wearing hats and anything hanging on my neck (especially, if its got some weight to it). Anything on my neck feels like a yoke if I wear it long enough, and I'm not a hat person.

Please take all these ideas to your coworkers and discuss them with everyone, getting feedback on each one.
posted by philomathoholic at 1:00 PM on August 17, 2007

Pocket protectors.
posted by Soliloquy at 1:20 PM on August 17, 2007

I love the lab coats idea.

Also, down here in Florida, on casual Fridays, nice button-down Batik shirts are now replacing Hawaiian shirts.
posted by misha at 1:20 PM on August 17, 2007

Nthing a laminated badge (not necessarily a name tag, but a badge with your logo) on a Bulldog clip. Workers can either string them from a lanyard or clip them to their shirt collar, pocket or whatever.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:31 PM on August 17, 2007

Fine, if the hat is too much, wear tiaras.
posted by amtho at 2:11 PM on August 17, 2007

I fourth the lab coats--they can be other colors than white if you like.

However, the clergy stoles would certainly be unusual and interesting.
posted by exceptinsects at 2:25 PM on August 17, 2007

A sash, like ms universe only better. Maybe constructed out of cat 5 or some other cable. Or like the scouts with badges.

Scarves, hardhat, epaulets! A nice tie? Someone has to resurrect the tie and t-shirts style. An ak-47 slung over the shoulder would be cool as well. Armbands - nazi style. or Hello Kitty ones.

Nintendo power gloves!
posted by captaincrouton at 3:37 PM on August 17, 2007

Dress in all black or another color with nametags? If everyone's wearing the same colors, it quickly identifies an employee over someone else, while giving the freedom to wear whatever (t-shirts, polo shirts, Hawaiian shirts, etc)
posted by debit at 4:59 PM on August 17, 2007

"... (And if you have ideas that include bottoms, bring 'em on.) ..."
This is such a golden opportunity to push kilts.
posted by paulsc at 5:01 PM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

I can't believe no one has pointed out that if they're wearing "shirts only" then they will be very easy to spot.

/grammar humor

posted by hsoltz at 8:25 PM on August 17, 2007

Something that will let your employees wear whatever they want to wear to work is the best plan. Let them choose from the lanyards, stoles, or labcoats. Don't make your staff share these things with each other. Having to wear someone else's sweaty uniform is just nasty.

Personally, I'd be more likely to work somewhere that had silver unitards as uniforms than polo shirts.
posted by yohko at 10:32 AM on August 18, 2007

Thanks all! The women I've talked to are behind the idea of lab coats, since we rarely have usable pockets and we could clip our existing ID badges to them instead of wearing them on a lanyard. We'll see what the rest of the group thinks!
posted by Jaie at 8:53 AM on August 23, 2007

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