As my wife and I were having lunch recently, we noticed a man with tattoos on his arms, wearing a white t-shirt, jeans, bowling shoes and an Oakland A’s baseball cap, plugged into earbuds. His appearance would not have caught our attention except that he was carrying a bag with the United States Postal Service (USPS) emblem.
It made us wonder if someone had kidnapped the employee and stole the mail.
Lately I have noticed several letter carriers who could pass as hobos due to their ungroomed just-woke-up look.
According to the USPS’s Authorized Uniform Items code 931.23, uniforms “provide immediate visual identification with the Postal Service to the public, project an appearance to the public that is neat, professional, and pleasing.”
I spoke to Richard Maher, a USPS spokesperson, who said that due to a current surge in hiring, postal employees are not issued a uniform “until they pass a probationary period of 90 days on the job.” He also said that in recent years a “more comfortable” shirt was designed to be worn untucked.
Regarding the use of electronic devices, however, Maher said that “letter carriers wearing earbuds . . . while on duty delivering mail is against Postal Service safety regulations and they would face disciplinary action if found doing so.” The question is: who enforces this when they are on their routes?
I contacted the National Association of Letter Carriers to find out if the union adheres to this policy, but officials declined comment.
Uniforms are important for identification purposes. Often I catch myself approaching someone whom I thought worked in a store only to realize it was another customer. Wearing a badge alone is not enough.
Besides the instant recognition factor, having employees wear uniforms helps build an esprit de corps, a sense of belonging to an organization, helping to define one’s role.
One study published in the Social Psychological & Personality Science journal last year supports the benefits of dressing up for work.
Co-author Michael Slepian told The Huffington Post that “Formal clothing made people feel more powerful” resulting in “more big-picture thinking.” Additionally, “formal clothing might improve your mood if you feel good in the clothing and think it looks good.”
This got me to thinking of not only the importance of wearing uniforms but of people knowing how to dress in general.
It seems people no longer differentiate what they wear at home or in public. Men especially have assumed that a t-shirt, shorts, and baseball cap amounts to a 24/7 wardrobe whether they are washing the Tahoe or eating at Ruth’s Chris Steak House—no need to change.
People don’t seem to care how they look when they leave the house. In the past, they would get dressed up when traveling on planes and trains, dining out, attending religious services, even going to TV tapings.
When I took my 11-year-old son to see “The Sound of Music,” he was better dressed than most of the adult males in the audience.
I saw a man in his 20s wearing shorts and flip flops, pouring handfuls of M&Ms down his mouth in the theatre during the performance. And this was in the front row.
How ironic that the L.A. Philharmonic holds Casual Friday concerts when people dress casually every day of the week. A more eye-catching promotion would be Formal Saturdays.
Dressing up transforms the way you feel about yourself and the environment you are in. As proof, when I have my 10th graders give speeches, I ask them to wear nicer clothes. It is remarkable how much better they perform.
It’s too bad that so many have a blasé attitude towards dressing appropriately including the mailman mentioned at the beginning. He might as well have worn pajamas.
Clearly, “dress for success” has been replaced with “dress for yourself.”