Uniform, no, not the blue blazer and khakis uniform popularized on AAAC (Ask Andy About Clothes) Trad Forums but rather an actual company uniform. Yes, an honest to goodness, name on your shirt uniform.I’ve recently moved from Augusta, GA to Columbus, OH to start a new job and that new job requires a uniform to be worn everyday. On one hand this simplifies the wardrobe considerably since the uniform is supplied by the company. On the other hand I can’t wear what I want to wear.
The weekends and what I wear to and from work is all my own (we change into the uniform once at work) so there’s no difference there for me. In fact it will probably inspire me to take my weekend and evening attire to a hirer level than I might normally (or not, we’ll see). Ohio has a different feel thus far than the South, a little more casual, more of a jeans and t-shirt kind of atmosphere. Augusta and The South in general tend to lean a little more toward the prep side of style. I’m still trying to get a feel for Columbus and I’ll have more thoughts on it later.
Enough rambling, the question at hand is is there any room for personal style with a uniform? The uniform consists of cotton work pants and a cotton button up mechanic’s shirt. This leaves the shoes, socks, belt, watch, and any other accessories up to the individual. What’s the preppy, trad, TNSIL, etc kinda guy to do?
Time to explore the casual side of things.
Shoes are probably the biggest personal selection. Most people wear tennis shoes and the rest some sort of work boot. Boots are required in some environment but are not typical. The potential for shoe damage still remains from chemical use or just plain dirty environments. Penny loafers, longwings, park avenues, etc seem inappropriate given the rest of the attire. Bucks and blutchers are probably the way to go in this case. I’ve been wearing the AE Commuters that I originally picked up as good walking shoes for my NYC trip. Something like the Alden All Weather Walkers might be appropriate too. There’s also the just fit in and get some decent tennis shoes option too. I’m seriously considering just a decent pair of gray sneakers and settling the issue like that.
The belt and watch allow more flexibility. Ribbon and surcingle belts are natural options. Subtle, classic patterns are key though. I’ve yet to try the different watch bands like at Central Watch. Maybe this is a good time to pick up a cheap Timex and give it a shot? A nice navy and red or navy and yellow would look good I think. The two pictures below are good examples, taken from Tripreed and Squire at AAAC:
I think the watchband and different belts are my best options. Shoes have too much potential to get messed up to invest too much in it. Sometimes it is better to go with the crowd too. Overall I think this is something I need to just try and see how it feels.