Could a uniform actually help drivers be better at their jobs? (Photo: Walmart)

Could a uniform actually help drivers be better at their jobs? (Photo: Walmart)

What should drivers wear behind the wheel? I’ve written before about the importance of a professional appearance to trucking’s image.

But did you know that in addition to affecting other peoples’ perceptions of you, how you dress can affect how well you do your job?

A recent story on theweek.com highlights research indicating that what you wear can actually change how you perform.

"Last year, the phrase 'enclothed cognition' — an offshoot of 'embodied cognition,' the idea that aspects of your thoughts are shaped by your body — entered the b-school vocabulary. The term came from Adam D. Galinsky, a professor at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management, who found that when people don a white lab coat they believe belongs to a doctor, they become more focused and careful — effectively a little smarter when performing cognitive tasks.

...When people don a white lab coat they believe belongs to a doctor, they become more focused and careful — effectively a little smarter when performing cognitive tasks.

"For the study, Galinsky assigned 58 under grads to either wear a white, doctor's lab coat, or simply the street clothes already on their backs. He then used incongruent trials that tested their focus and mental acuity. He found that those who wore the lab coat made about half as many errors as those who wore street clothes....

"'Clothes invade the body and brain, putting the wearer into a different psychological state,' said the New York Times about Galinky's findings....

"In a 1994 study, Yoon-Hee Kwon, from North Illinois University studied how clothing impacts the way you rate yourself on 10 occupational attributes: Responsibility, competence, knowledgeability, professionalism, honesty, reliability, intelligence, trustworthiness, willingness to work hard, and efficiency. Cross-referencing these attributes against broad guidelines like "properly dressed" or "not properly dressed," she found that when wearing appropriate clothes, a person's sense of these occupational traits were augmented.

Obviously, the definition of "properly dressed" is going to vary depending on your job. You wouldn't wear a suit while tarping a load. But there's a difference between appropriate work clothes and being a slob.

The topic of how drivers dress on the road was the recent subject of an active discussion on the Women in Trucking Facebook group.

One female driver started the discussion thus: "My hubby told about a woman he saw in a truck stop years ago wearing a dress and heels... 'dressed to the nines.' She paid for her fuel, walked out to her long-nose Pete and pulled away! I applaud her... It's easy to fall into the "grubby" driver stage, especially when you are running hard. ... I'm not going to talk bad about what you choose to wear... I've been known to drive in my PJs! But, as he pointed out to me, there is no reason to walk into a public place or a customer looking like a slob."

This led to much discussion about how “girly” women truckers should dress on the job, the practicality of things like makeup and heels, but also many noting that men and women both can dress professionally without resorting to ties or high heels.

Later in the comments, the original poster noted that she had started the discussion because “I noticed that I was slipping into the ‘shabby’ stage,” she wrote, “pulling my hair in a ponytail, wearing my PJs far more than I was wearing my clothes (NEVER in public!)...and it made me feel, you know...blah!"

Another woman commented that her company has a uniform and appearance policy that a lot of drivers have complained about. “I actually applaud them. It's definitely professional.”

When I asked her how wearing the uniform made her feel, she responded, “I have worked in the past before for a company that allowed us to wear whatever we wanted. I honestly feel like I have more pride in my job and myself in the uniform. Sure, there are days where I would love to climb behind the wheel in sweats, but more days than not, I'm glad we have the policy. It is also quite noticeable when you run into some of our other drivers too. We just carry ourselves differently than everyone else.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with regular clothes, she notes. But obviously dressing the part makes a difference for this driver and her fellow truckers at this company.

What about you? Does your company have a dress code or use uniforms? Does it make a difference?

Author

Deborah Lockridge
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology. 28 Jesse H. Neal honors.

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Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology. 28 Jesse H. Neal honors.

View Bio
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