Uniforms and dress codes exist for a wide variety of reasons, whether it’s to encourage team unity, protect the wearer from job hazards, or make it easier for customers to identify employees. The drawback, however, is that this can detract from your ability to express your unique personality. Having everyone wear the same outfit each day can be tiresome for employees who like to express themselves through their clothing. We’ve got some tips for fun ways you can still show off your sense of style, even if you have a specific uniform or dress code to work around.
Though not quite as iconic as the classic apron and cap, modern nursing uniforms (typically scrubs) are a quick way to identify hospital staff. Some hospitals even use color-coded scrubs to help distinguish between nursing specialties. While scrubs can make hospitals more efficient, they don’t provide a lot of opportunity for personal expression. Luckily, there are still some ways nurses can be unique:
- Scrubs – Depending on the hospital, nurses may actually have a significant amount of freedom with the color or style of their scrubs. While there’s some debate about perceived professionalism, many nurses go with print-based scrubs, like this Tinker Bell one – prints are especially popular with nurses who work with children. If your hospital allows you to choose your own scrubs, experiment with bright colors and prints that show off your sense of fashion.
- Jewelry/Accessories – Excessive jewelry can make a nurse’s job difficult, but finding the right necklace or pair of earrings can add a subtle, but fun twist to any look. Furthermore, a watch is a necessity for just about every nurse, opening up plenty of stylish options. This adorable nurse-themed watch is a fun choice and for nurses who want something light and functional, but still stylish – Swatch watches are a great option.
- Stockings – Having the right pair of socks can mean the difference between healthy and aching legs for nurses. Choosing a fun pair of socks can be a great way to subtly inject your personality into your nursing scrubs. As a bonus, you can use compression socks for the added health benefits, like preventing your legs from swelling during your shift. Looking for a cute pair? Try these polka dot compression socks from BrightLife Go.
Please note: Always defer to your hospital’s specific uniform-restrictions, as there may be health or legal reasons for specific requirements.
Wait Staff/Server Uniforms
Whether you work in a five-star restaurant or your local diner, you likely have a very specific dress code you need to follow. Restaurants often use their uniforms as a form of branding, so the tone of the outfit will typically match the tone of the restaurant. Serving guests in suits and fancy dresses? Expect to be dressy. If you work in a kid-oriented restaurant, you’ll probably be wearing brighter colors. Here’s how you can make your server clothes more fun:
- Hairstyle – This depends heavily on the type of restaurant you work at, but experimenting with cute or cool hairstyles can be a great way to express yourself. As long as you maintain a well-groomed appearance, most employers are lenient with hair. Just do a quick search on YouTube or Pinterest and you’ll find tons of tutorials for hair of all lengths.
- Jewelry/Accessories – Most restaurants are fine with tasteful jewelry, including earrings, necklaces, and sometimes subtle rings – just make sure it doesn’t interfere with your ability to do your job. Watches are also a great way to show off some style, if your boss will allow you to wear one.
- Socks – Since you spend most of your shift on your feet anyway, you might as well make them a focal point of your personality. Unless specific socks are part of your uniform, most employers won’t mind you donning a whimsical patterned or printed pair. For added health benefits, you could even choose a fun pair of compression socks – being on your feet for hours can lead to all sorts of leg-related issues that compression socks help alleviate.
Please note: For health reasons, certain uniform requirements or restrictions may be mandated by law.
Office Dress Codes
While few office-based businesses have an official uniform, many offices do have a dress code that employees are expected to follow. This can range from business casual all the way to a suit and tie, but most offices fall somewhere in between. Dress codes, luckily, provide more freedom than full uniforms, but you’ll still want to make sure you appear professional while you’re on the clock. Here are a few safe ways to spruce up your work outfit:
- Neckwear – For men, ties are the easiest and most obvious way to accessorize. Unless your business has a very conservative dress code, you can usually get away with colorful patterns or interesting prints (like a unique paisley tie). You could even cap it off with a classy tie bar. If your office allows it, you can also mix in a bowtie every once in a while. Women can experiment with neckwear – try out scarves in a variety of knots (especially during colder months).
- Watches/Bracelets/Necklaces – Flashy accessories are probably best suited for off-work hours, but while you’re in the office you can use subtle jewelry like bracelets, necklaces, and earrings to add flair to your outfit. With the help of stores like J. Crew, statement necklaces have become a stylish part of office-fashion. You could also wear a classy watch to make your outfit more unique.
- Desk Decorations – Okay, this isn’t technically related to dress codes, but it’s still a great way to express yourself at work. Most offices will allow at least some personalization of your work area, whether it’s family photos, art, or fun trinkets. This is a great chance to show off your interests, which could even help you make connections with co-workers. Try a clever coffee mug or personalized art print from Etsy.
- Socks – Like with most other uniforms, office dress codes rarely restrict what kind of socks you can wear. Mix it up with a fun pair of argyle or striped socks. If you’re really confident, go with even bolder prints. And since you’re likely sitting at a desk most of your day, why not consider getting a pair of colorful compression socks to help alleviate achy legs and ward off varicose veins? We’ve got a lovely pair of Italian wool socks with a subtle dot over the ankle that are a great way to start testing patterns.
School Uniform/Dress Codes
Most school districts will at least enforce a minimum dress code, but schools (especially private institutions) are increasingly requiring full uniforms for students in an attempt to minimize distractions and, in some cases, even bullying. Regardless of which category you fall into, there are still plenty of ways to express yourself within your school’s guidelines:
- Backpacks/Bags – Dress codes usually only determine the clothes you can and can’t wear, but most schools are fairly lenient with backpacks. This presents a wide variety of options, whether it’s with a pre-designed backpack from a store or one you’ve decorated yourself. As long as it’s not offensive or overly distracting, you shouldn’t have any issues – so feel free to show off your favorite show or even your favorite animal!
- Notebooks/School Supplies – Even the strictest dress codes rarely require specific school supplies. This provides a great opportunity to express yourself, whether it’s notebooks with designs from your favorite bands or television shows, pencils with cute patterns or phrases, or even just a cool water bottle.
- Socks – Sensing a trend here? Though some schools will have specific socks for students to wear, most dress codes allow for at least some variation in stockings. Try out bright colors or quirky patterns to add some pop to your outfit.