European Uniforms

The uniform confers power.

A uniform subsumes the individual. Uni + form. One entity. One shape. Single purpose.

The uniform speaks a coded language. When you interact with someone in uniform you are interacting with the whole.

The uniform necessarily commands attention. It is designed to be a visual cue to observers that you are not dealing with an individual, but with an institution. A company. A government. An armed force.

Those who wear uniforms exchange their individuality for the power that belonging to a larger whole confers.

Their individual actions must be judged by the standards of the organization the uniform represents and to which the wearer must be held accountable.

From fast food chains to military checkpoints, the people in uniform carry the full weight of the organization that issues them. They have at their disposal its power to compel action, to demand respect, to require deference, submission and the acceptance of the authority of the person empowered with the uniform.

Those who abuse their borrowed power should be judged more harshly than those who disobey.

When the watchers have no overseers, or are not held accountable, you have the root of decay embedded in an institution.

A uniform provides comfort. It can convey a message of hope and peace, like the simple clothes worn by wandering Bhuddist monks. Or it can install fear and loathing like the fascist black uniforms of the SS.

A uniform can raise the prestige and sense of self worth for the person required to wear it. Ad agencies are hired to redesign uncool staff uniforms to cut down on absenteeism and depression of the staff required to wear it.

At school a uniform is designed to equalize, to limit the freedom of expression children can exercise and to level set students with each other, to prevent fashion and disparities in family wealth to create barriers and differences between pupils. Though the uniform itself is a sign of wealth, of private education, of protection.

A uniform can degrade as well. The orange jumpsuits of Guantanamo are designed to visually stigmatize and make instantly recognizable the detainees.

It can be used to intimidate and control, like the yellow stars in Nazi Germany.

Priests, nuns, monks, cardinals and cannibals all wear uniforms.

Even the non-uniform is a uniform. The anti-uniform of the punk rocker, or the beaded hippie is its own form of protective garb that broadcasts alignment with a group, an ethos, a polity that has chosen to deliberately reject the uniforms of conformity.

The pin-striped suit of the banker;  the flamboyant sequinned jacket of the rock star; the Hawaiian-shirted, Bermuda shorts clad, flip flop shod surfer.

No matter your lifestyle choices, your plumage of choice represents some kind of uniform.

Rare indeed is the individual who can successfully reject the uniform and live without one. Rarer still the observer who recognizes the free person and can withhold judgement.

A uniform is more than just clothing. It is a talisman, armour, an advertisement, a message, a brand. It is a warning, a threat, a beacon of hope, a symbol of terror. It is the jihadi’s beard, the monk’s shaved head, a smiley face emoji.

The uniform you choose reflects the life you choose. It is the vehicle as much as the consequence of where you direct your energies. To dress for success is more than a platitude.

You are the uniform you don. If you don’t like the one you are wearing because you are not aligned with the values it represents or believe any longer in the source of its power, than you must discard it along with the beliefs that led you to take it on in the first place.

And when your actions contradict the same and are inconsistent with the values the uniform represents, you must be stripped of its protective power and lose the privileges that accompany the clothes.

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