Inmates housed in Mississippi prisons could soon be trading in their striped uniforms for new duds of a solid color. According to WLOX news, House Bill 1287 recently passed in the state legislature’s House Corrections Committee is on its way to the entire House for further debate. If the bill eventually becomes law, it will do away with a 25-year tradition of issuing striped uniforms to inmates.

Mississippi’s current inmate uniform consists of striped pants with a solid white shirt. On the back of the shirt is printed the word ‘convict’ in bold black letters. It’s not clear what new uniforms would look like should the bill pass, but it’s likely Mississippi would adopt a single-color uniform similar to what so many other states are already using.

If you run or manage a business in which customer-facing staff wear uniforms, there are some lessons to be learned here. Three of those lessons are detailed below.

1. Uniforms Identify the Wearers

Whether anyone particularly likes Mississippi’s prison uniforms, the main purpose of those uniforms is to identify the wearers. They certainly do that. Anyone seeing a Mississippi inmate would instantly know that person’s status without having to inquire. And should the state decide to transition to solid uniforms, identifying inmates will still be fairly easy – especially within the corrections system.

Likewise, your staff members are identified by the uniforms they wear. The lesson here is to consider what that identity looks like. Does it match the identity of your company? Are different positions within your company identified by way of uniform variations? These are the kinds of things you have to consider before making uniform choices.

2. People Do Care What They Wear

The second lesson is found in the feelings that uniforms stir in the people who wear them. In the case of Mississippi’s prison uniforms, proponents of the change say that the current striped uniforms stigmatize inmates. Whether or not that’s true remains unclear. But assuming it is, this would suggest that the inmates themselves do not feel all that good about their clothing.

It turns out that employees in the working world often feel the same way. They are embarrassed about the uniforms they wear. An undesirable uniform might be outdated, poorly coordinated, or just downright ugly. That’s not good, explains Alsco.

As a nationally known uniform rental company, Alsco has plenty of experience in this area. They say that employees who do not feel good about their uniforms are not likely to be as enthusiastic about their work or their interactions with customers. If they are embarrassed by what they look like, that embarrassment is like to show in their work.

Redesigning Uniforms Isn’t Easy

The third and final lesson to be learned here is that redesigning new uniforms isn’t always easy. In Mississippi’s case, not everyone is in favor of replacing the striped uniforms inmates now wear. They want them to remain in place. Why? Because they do the job they were intended to do.

Let’s assume that House Bill 1287 does eventually become law. Those on both sides of the issue are somehow going to have to reach a compromise with the knowledge that no uniform design is going to make everyone involved 100% happy. The same is true in the workplace.

Uniforms are a big part of both business and housing inmates. Interestingly enough, the uniforms in both environments exist for similar reasons. If nothing else, they identify the people and organizations behind them. So great care has to be taken when deciding on what a uniform should look like.


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