Could the grocery uniform be any more boring? Probably not. A polo shirt and black slacks, while functional, leaves workers and customers, well, uninspired. A smart uniform should convey a message about the store and its brand, says Cheryl Bercier, a fashion arts student at Toronto’s Humber College. She doesn’t think the outfits in many of today’s supermarkets measure up.
Indeed, the good old grocery uniform is in need of an overhaul. To help, we’ve turned to Sandra Tullio-Pow, program director at Ryerson University’s school of fashion in Toronto. Tullio-Pow says a uniform should be designed with three things in mind:
1) Function: While cashiers have different apparel needs than butchers, you have to incorporate all those needs to come up with a universal uniform style that is cost effective.
2) Expressive needs: Clothing is part of employees’ identity. How do they feel wearing it?
3) Esthetics: It has to look good.
Here are some more tips on how to update the grocery uniform:
1. Centre your look around an apron.
A barbecue-style apron, with bib over the chest, gets the store brand front and centre, says Tullio-Pow. Keep the colour scheme in line with the store’s own brand. You can also change the patterns: floral for women; solid or stripes for men. Another option: alter the design slightly for different departments. To make a sustainable choice, choose a recycled polyester material (from pop bottles) that can be shredded to make new aprons later on.
2. In an air-conditioned environment, uniforms should have that secondary component of the jacket to wear on top. Try a cardigan-style knit that incorporates the apron in some way.
3. While hairnets have to be worn in some departments, they look awful. A ballcap over top helps, but the best solution may be a sun visor-style hat. It offers the lowest intrusion as it peaks over the forehead and opens at the top so it’s comfortable to wear.
4. Cotton knits are the most comfortable fabric in uniforms.
5. Trousers are traditionally black. But with organic and sustainable being such hot trends in grocery, says Tullio-Pow, choose an unbleached, natural tan fabric instead. Stay away from dark colours that will fade quickly with washings.
6. To complete the look, make your reusable grocery bags from the same recycled plastic material as the aprons. It creates a powerful visual impact.