The Evolution of Work Uniforms and Clothing - The History of Work Wear

Industrial and corporate uniforms are a mainstay in today’s society as many companies opt to have their team members wear them for branding, identification and safety. But how did we get to this point? We dug into our history books to find out how uniforms got to where they are today.

The Early Days of Uniforms

The earliest occupations to adapt uniforms were postal workers, police officers and military. The uniforms served to identify these groups and distinguish them from the general public. It’s easy to see why these jobs needed uniforms. Imagine a non-uniformed letter carrier or police officer showing up to your house or place of business in plain clothes. It would be off putting to say the least.

During the industrial revolution, factory employees and managers began wearing uniforms to distinguish rank and role. This lead to modern day companies across many industries turning to uniforms.

learn more about the history of work clothes and uniforms in america

Uniforms in the 1970s and 1980s

When Rentwear first started in 1972, uniforms were almost exclusively blue button down shirts and blue pants. Workers in industries like auto repair, manufacturing and service all wore similar style uniforms as there was not much variation.

Work uniforms ensured employees were identifiable while on the job and that they didn’t have to wear their own clothes to do things that may cause damage or tearing.

It was a simple time in the uniform industry. When a company needed uniforms, they knew exactly what they were going to get.

Uniforms in the 1990s and Today

With the rise of safety standards and a more casual culture, uniforms have gone from solid blue long sleeve button downs and pants to a variety of sizes, styles, colors and materials.

OSHA, NFPA and ANSI standards lead to the rise of flame resistant uniforms and high visibility apparel. Road work, welding and construction all require a special type of uniform to stay compliant and safe.

The move to more casual dress has lead to jeans and short sleeved shirts becoming a standard part of today’s work uniform. Work shirts now come in many different colors with options like stripes and two-tone side panels. They’re also lighter and more breathable than ever because employee comfort is very important today.

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