Updated: Apr 11
Being who we truly are
In the past, doctors only wore black clothes. It showed due respect for the patients who often could not be saved at the time. The white apron only came about as medical education became more scientific, and the health care provider wanted to look just like that. The garment, previously only worn by scientists, thus became a symbol of the knowledge and competence of doctors. It also radiated hygiene and safety—characteristics expected of physicians.
For years this was an essential function of workwear: filling in what was expected. Wearing suits in companies also had to radiate this professionalism. We had to be competent employees, or at least look like one. Who you were outside of work didn't matter. What's more, nobody should have known about it. The uniform work clothes hid every personal characteristic under a semblance of competence.
This changed with Social Media. Our personal lives had become so public that a uniform could no longer hide it. Moreover, the successful founders behind these millions of companies were no longer the typical businessmen. Instead, they showed a personality that could be perfectly characterised with a “hoodie”. Personality became more important than a neutral suit. Competence becomes something you have, not what you wear. Today you see 25-year-old TikTok people in a t-shirt who are more regarded as financial advisors than the in-suit-dressed brokers on Wallstreet.
In the meantime, we sometimes notice that personality is just as malleable as a uniform. The 'influencers' who have gained name and fame on social media often turn out not to be authentic. More and more brands are moving away from the use of these influencers for that reason. They are exchanged for 'real people' with fewer followers and especially a less made personality. Authenticity has become essential today. We want to deal with real people, also in a professional context.
We see this more often in healthcare. The white apron makes way for authenticity. Because patients need this more than ever: a real person, they feel good about. This authenticity is also reflected in the interior. Waiting rooms increasingly feel like a cosy living room, and consultation rooms radiate the cosiness of a dining room: Parsley Health is a medical practice with the charm of a comfortable living room. TIA is a women's health centre that feels powerful and feminine. Another excellent example is KindBody, a fertility clinic that receives couples in a warm, hopeful environment rather than a cold, clinical centre. And uniforms no longer fit in these atmospheric spaces.
As we appreciate 'real' relationships more, we also desire more and more to be real ourselves. We want to be recognised as we are. We no longer accept prejudices. Transgender people, men with makeup, conscious singles or non-monogamous relationships seem to be anecdotal. But the attention it gets heralds a new era in which vulnerability takes centre stage. We no longer accept that we have to hide from the opinions of others. For example, teenage girls today rightly point out to the school board that the length of the school skirt is only provocative if the other interprets it that way.
Work clothes are usually subject to rules dictated by the implicit norms of society. In parallel with the social evolution in society, we saw how professional clothing had made way for a more personal clothing style in the workplace. In turn, because genuine relationships mean more to us, this unique style evolved into a more authentic representation of ourselves. We want to be able to be vulnerable without prejudices. So it is less and less about who we should be, but about being who we are.