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As far as some people are concerned, life is about playing roles. As well as in personal life, this is particularly true of working life. One of the main ways in which this delineation of roles is highlighted is by work clothes. This article discusses the psychological effects of work clothes both on the wearer and the people who see the wearer.

There are a great many reasons why certain roles are given particular work clothes. Frequently, the main purpose of work clothes is to generate an air of authority for the wearer, and to persuade those who deal with that person, that they do indeed hold authority. This is very important in professions such as the police and military.

The fact that many others also wear the same uniform reminds civilians that there are a large number of these individuals (e.g. police and army). Not only does this emphasise that these forces have plenty of back up, but it also suggests that they uphold the same values - and that creating a conflict with these values, rules or laws would be a bad idea.

Along with upholding the law, there are many other reasons why work clothes need to create an air of authority or of knowledge. The medical profession is a good example of this. If someone is treated by a doctor in a hospital, the doctor's clothing needs to persuade the person of several things.

The first is that this person has some official recognition as someone who knows how to deal with medical ailments. The next is simply that the doctor has clean clothes, and will therefore not assist infections or diseases spreading. Nurses work clothes also serve the same purpose, to inspire confidence and authority in both the wearer and the person seeking medical assistance.

The military too puts a great emphasis on the uniform. It could be argued that while the police and medical professions wear work clothes more to have an effect on other people, that military uniforms have more of an influence on the wearer. Although the other army needs to know exactly who to shoot, uniform work clothes constantly remind the soldier that they are a cog in a machine, and not required to have any free thought.

An army full of men with strong political or religious views would be a dangerous thing, as they are a unified political tool of a particular government. The uniform they wear everyday reduces the idea of the individual and promotes the 'team' mentality of the army. The idea of almost being one is crucial for morale and the belief that they are all there for exactly the same purpose.

Work clothes serve a number of purposes, and as this article has eluded to, without their vast implementation, it would have been difficult to attain the level of civilisation we now have. But of course the uniform has been equally part of negative human development too. Either way, work clothes play a vital role in all of our everyday lives.

Author: Anna Stenning