There is no absolute definition of what constitutes a corporate uniform, but the term brings forth images of formal shirts, business dress and suits, ties and highly polished shoes. It is concerned with looking the part and projecting the right image for an employer. However, the phrase corporate uniforms also cover any clothing that an employee has to wear on behalf of or under the instruction of their employer. Often organisations have to follow strict health and safety regulations or require staff to attend functions or exhibitions either way the wearing of corporate wear is designed to promote the business in a positive and professional light.
As more importance (both in terms of image and legislation), is attached to wearing appropriate clothing in the workplace, the work wear industry itself has become an expanding business concern in its own right. In its totality corporate clothing suppliers are enjoying a collective and cumulative rise in their annual business turnover of between 6% and 8%. In terms of actual money, this represents a year on year increase on a total turnover which surpassed £1billion in 2011. Overall the work and business clothing sector represents approximately 4% of all the clothes purchased in the UK. In the same year, the UK working population or their employers purchased approximately 40 million garments for use exclusively in their collective workplaces. To put this into perspective corporate clothing in the UK forms part of an industry worth over 4.5 billion US dollars as of 2011.
Many industries such as railways, the airlines, delivery services and the power utility companies have traditionally required employees to wear a uniform as standard. Since the 1980’s corporate uniforms have become adopted by many more industries and different organisations. In addition as the economy has diversified the number of private employers who require some kind of company approved clothing. For instance, the growth of the travel industry has meant increased competition and so the wearing of recognized clothing has become part of that industries branding and advertising strategy. In short wearing appropriate smart, attractive and professional clothing promotes an individual organisation and makes it stand out from the competition. However, it is important to state that clothing is only part of the story, for real success staff must be well trained and have a good relationship with the employer.
The UK economy has become increasingly service focused, and the global textile industry has become more competitive. In addition, for certain industries health, hygiene and safety legislation has become very stringent. This has meant the development of new materials as well as the onus on employers to provide the best-possible work wear for their employees. Depending on the particular industry or occupation there is (as of 2014), a legal requirement for employers to provide appropriate equipment from an approved list of corporate clothing suppliers. This can mean the right overalls in a food processing factory or the most advanced composite hard hat for oil rig workers. As this section of the economy has expanded there has been a major drive for standardisation in terms of quality. Many items of UK corporate clothing or work wear will not be considered fit for purpose unless they have the correct British standard kite label.
UK corporate clothing suppliers form part of a global network that is becoming increasingly complex and regulated. Many different agencies are involved in the overall procurement process, and this requires communication between manufacturers, suppliers and of course customers who will be buying the materials.