Best Fashion Companies To Work For As A Man The Historical Development of Corporate Clothing

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The Historical Development of Corporate Clothing

Business clothing or workwear, the clothing that a large part of the population wears, is rarely written about. However, the history of it deserves some attention as it is inextricably linked with the social issues of the time.

Diana de Marley, produced an interesting review of company clothing and staff uniforms for tradesmen and professionals in the twentieth century. She stated that “after the First World War the most professional workwear was black as so many people were in mourning, but during the 1920s gray suits became more common. The battle was between coats and top hats versus lounge suits and bowler hats when people chose their company clothes.

The short jacket gradually replaced the coat, and at the same time the lounge suit became more popular among the working class. They would wear suits, even if they were sloppy. The short jacket and trousers were the modern version of the hip length jacket and knee breeches that they had worn since the seventeenth century. The lounge suit had no difficulty with long coats, so workers adopted it in large numbers to such an extent that black lounge suits were accepted as socialist suits, worn by some into the 1950s.

When Gordon Selfridge opened his shop in London in 1909, the male staff had to wear black suits and the women black dresses with high necks. After the war in the twenties, the girls got white blouses, black cardigans and black skirts. The men still wore black suits. This was typical of all company uniforms for major merchandise retailers at the time.

Quite a few uniforms followed fashion. The girls who worked for Heinz wore long striped blue dresses with gigot sleeves, white aprons and large white caps to cover their hair. During the twenties, staff uniforms in food factories changed to shorter skirts and lower waists, and in the 30s the waists went up and hems down as part of a return to a more feminine look. It cost the companies a lot, but the workers did not like to look dated, as the cinema made them more aware of changes in fashion.

A large part of the working population worked on the land in the early twentieth century. Even in the late 1950s, one man in twenty still worked in agriculture, but by the 1980s this had fallen to one in a hundred. The old workers, who had stuck to their traditional clothing, wore heavy corduroy trousers, boots and leather leggings called buskins in Suffolk, and cloth-backed corduroy waistcoats. The old waistcoats with corduroy sleeves were so thick that a jacket was not necessary for work wear.

The Great Western Railway prided itself on its smartness and appearance, which typified how many companies expected their workers to represent the corporate image. The GWR rulebook of 19333 stated: “when on duty be neat in appearance and where supplied, wear uniform, number and badge.”

In the mill towns “the first sound of the morning was the clatter of the mill girls’ clogs down the cobbled street” Orwell wrote in 1937. Clogs continued into the war, along with the tartan shawl, calf-length skirt and dark stockings. In the cotton mill, their now traditional pinafores continued as the most important form of workwear protection.”

With the beginning of the industrial revolution, and the displacement of labor towards the cities, there was the gradual development of work clothes that suited the job at hand.

In recent times, we now see more emphasis on corporate clothing and workwear related to the service sector, where the company’s image and brand awareness play a more important role, and the perception of the company towards customers is becoming increasingly important, which reinforces the need for classic corporate clothing.

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