BlogUniform ProgramsThe Effect of Employee Uniforms on Employee Satisfaction

The Effect of Employee Uniforms on Employee Satisfaction

Employee uniforms generally constitute an important component of any establishment’s brand identity. Not only do uniforms create a specific impression of a property, but they are an integral part of the atmosphere created by a hotel or restaurant. The ornate uniforms of bell persons at a luxury hotel, for example, help to confirm guests’ expectations for that type of property. In a casual, single-unit restaurant, employees’ uniforms can add to the guest’s perception of eating at a professional operation. In a more practical vein, uniforms allow guests to identify employees easily. Thus, uniforms help to facilitate guests’ locating an employee when they have a question or a complaint. They also help to make service more tangible by giving the guest an idea of what type of service to expect (e.g., limited service or upscale, formal or relaxed).

Uniforms also affect the employees’ attitudes. The following anecdotes demonstrate this point. A waitress once complained that the managers never consulted the employees when they selected uniforms. She described how her uniform’s loose-fitting sleeves draped down into the food when she served food and cleared plates. A few hours after starting a shift, consequently, her uniform was stained and dirty, which made her self conscious. This self consciousness, in turn, made it more difficult for her to interact with guests in a friendly manner. A front-desk clerk in a hotel with a tropical theme stated to us that his bright purple jacket made him feel silly. Worse, guests often joked about the uniform. While the guests’ jokes were innocent enough, they humiliated the sensitive employee. In contrast, uniforms can also create favorable attitudes. Dealers in casinos have said that they feel professional when they put on a tuxedo, because it puts them in the mood for their role as a dealer. From stories such as these we learn that uniforms affect not only employees’ attitudes, but also their ability to serve the guest.

Focusing on Uniforms

Decisions regarding employees’ uniforms are usually made by the management team, with little or no input from the employees who will wear them. Managers are mostly concerned about the atmosphere the uniforms will help create, and managers rarely discuss the uniform’s functionality or appearance with employees. The result of a poor selection (that is, a uniform that doesn’t function well or looks bad) is that the uniform can actually have a negative effect on employee attitudes and, perhaps, lead to customer dissatisfaction. The link between customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction has been well established. Interestingly, one group of casino customers recently described the casino’s atmosphere as the ambience created by their interaction with employees. Thus, we consider employees’ attitudes to be part of a hospitality establishment’s atmosphere. It follows that uniforms that boost employees’ morale should also have a positive effect on customer satisfaction through the uniforms’ contribution to a positive atmosphere. Ironically, while improving a property’s physical appearance through the use of uniforms, managers often destroy what seems to be an important atmospheric attribute for customers-namely, the friendly and relaxed ambience created by positive interactions with employees.

Uniform Design

Although guests may not consciously analyze a uniform’s design, they are no doubt aware of an employee’s uniform. One consultant claims that uniforms are the most visible aspect of a hotel. Uniforms are not just dressing the staff, but that they are instead setting the look of the entire resort. Most uniform designs comprise the attributes of appearance, function, character, and comfort. Those attributes can be further parsed into the following design variables: color, construction, fit, identification, integrity, look, materials, performance, and style. We discuss those variables in the following section.


Appearance is a powerful design component that helps create an impression. Attractive people are considered to be more sociable and more accomplished at tasks. Clothing has a profound effect on degree of attractiveness. Clothing is laden with symbolism that provides information about social and occupational standing, sex-role identification, political orientation, ethnicity, and aesthetic priorities. One of clothing’s most dominant messages emanates from color. Research in nonverbal communication suggests that colors generate influential associations. Colors are sometimes used as a stratification technique. For example, as noted here, different job levels are segmented while attempting to convey an overall harmony. Within most city office buildings, browns, greens, and blues designate maintenance workers, the bottom rung; a step up is gray, which conveys technical skill and more substantial pay stubs. Colors putatively convey personality traits and psychological clues about the wearer to the perceiver. However, the wearer’s status is often denoted by materials used in clothing design.


The difference between good and bad fabric is the feel. Designers indicate that consumers think they want natural-fiber uniforms until they have to care for them. Uniform consumers want the hand of cotton that performs like polyester.  Synthetic materials are colder, convey lower class and have an effect on customers’ actions and expectations.


Uniforms constructed even from the finest and most expensive fabrics will lose their positive effect if they are not fitted properly. A disheveled employee in an ill-fitting uniform reflects negatively on the organization. It can communicate to the guest that the operation is careless and inefficient. Conspicuousness of dress refers to the extent to which dress of organizational members stands out from the dress of nonmembers. Highly conspicuous dress clearly distinguishes employees of an organization, as occurs in most hotels. Whereas highly conspicuous dress constitutes a marketing or brand statement, a moderately conspicuous uniform sets the employee apart without making a definite positioning statement. Uniforms donned by medical workers, for example, typically have a moderate level of conspicuousness. Finally, a uniform with a low level of conspicuousness generally does not distinguish employees from non employees, as might occur in a typical business setting.


Simply put, uniforms must be functional to be effective. Moreover, employees are the best people to offer suggestions about functional design. Given the opportunity, employees will alert designers as to whether jacket pockets are large enough for guest-check pads; whether shirting fabrics are scratchy; whether the cut of the slacks restricts movement; and a host of other practical points that might easily be overlooked. As part of the uniform, footwear comprises its own set of functional challenges, in particular to ensure that shoes are comfortable for the entire time an employee is standing during a shift.


Not only are materials a component of appearance, but they are also a component of function. Functionality is enhanced by fabrics that are both durable and easy to clean. Natural fibers are generally the most comfortable, but cotton, for instance, is not serviceable for long periods because it wears out and takes on stains. Coarse polyester weaves of past decades wore like iron, but they also felt like iron and looked progressively shabby as they pilled and suffered pulls and runs.  Footwear should have textured (non-skid) soles and be impervious to moisture, chemicals, and oils. Mandatory uniforms and dress-code requirements that fail to consider the performance requirements of each employee position leave indelible impressions about the organization on the wearer. Like the waitress we mentioned at the outset, a cocktail waitress told us that she had to wear a blouse with sleeves that draped. The blouse looked great, but the draping sleeves would knock over drinks when things got busy and she started moving fast.


Clothing acts as a guide to inform the stranger of the status of an unknown person. With that concept in mind, hospitality organizations should supply employees with uniforms that readily identify the employees’ position. As an example of the power of symbol, an urban Miami hotel credits a significant decrease in criminal acts against property and guests to a change in security officers’ uniforms. The security employees changed from relatively inconspicuous clothes dark blue blazers, gray pants, and white button-down shirts-to a conspicuous, high-profile paramilitary style uniform. The new uniforms not only enhanced guests’ perception of security, but also deterred criminal behavior. One officer commented that he liked looking more like a law-enforcement official rather than being taken for someone from the reception desk.

Here at UniformMarket powered by Sellers Commerce, we provide you with tools such as Uniform Program Management and Retail Commerce, which can connect you with the products and data you need for your employees or business. Whether you are a uniform retailer or an energy company needing to fit your employees with new uniforms and gear, we have the tools and services for you.  Contact us for a demo today!