By RIC BLUM
Mark Twain is credited with saying, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”
A simple translation may mean society cannot judge someone on what they already have naturally (generally speaking, all men are created equal).
But someone’s taste in clothes may determine our opinion as to the class he/she may be part of in society based on the quality, expense, fit and taste of their clothing when wearing it. (This must explain all of those counterfeit handbags.)
I’m not advocating we should all show up for work naked, in tailored designer tuxedos or evening dresses. However, cut-off jeans and a torn T-shirt may not be quite appropriate either.
Then again, there is another colloquialism about putting lipstick on a pig which is beyond the scope of this article.
Some of us need to find a happy medium for our store, our location, our customers and our individual personality. And for all others, there is the company uniform.
u·ni·form (yo?on??fôrm )
1. A distinctive outfit intended to identify those who wear it as members of a specific group.
2. One set of such an outfit.
tr.v. u·ni·formed, u·ni·form·ing, u·ni·forms
1. To make (something) uniform.
2. To provide or dress with a uniform.
What? You don’t have a company uniform? Well, maybe that is what you need to get to the next level.
Further, if you watch any of the pawnshop “reality” TV shows, you’ll note that all the employees seem to be wearing a store logo shirt. Yes, this does help separate the employees from the customers for easy identification (I admit, I’ve had this problem in some pawnshop visits) and evokes some degree of professionalism. Although I think there may be a fair amount of mimicking going on here (“Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery”), hey, if it seems to work for those TV pawnshops, shouldn’t we attempt it ourselves?
But even the term “uniform” may be misleading because employees are not always fully uniform in appearance and may not always wear attire provided by their employer. But they are always representing the employer in their attire.
Employees all wearing black shirts and khaki pants, for example, may appear conspicuous and thus represent the employer even though their attire is uniform only in color, not in its features.
Then again, a distinctive shirt with the business’s name or logo helps the employees stand out among others within the business and creates a more professional appearance.
When I attend a pawnbroker convention, trade show, meeting or seminar, I notice many of the attendees wearing apparel with their pawnshop’s name on it.
Typically they are wearing a polo-style shirt, but sometimes a dressier button-down shirt. I often see store jackets and hats, too.
I went out to dinner last week and the guy sitting in the booth behind me was wearing a polo-style shirt which had Bob’s Pawnshop emblazoned across the left breast.
I would assume that everyone who sees him after he leaves work knows where he works — a good advertising bonus for the pawnshop owner. (Provided the employee behaves in public and doesn’t drink too much —this restaurant also served alcohol.)
Recently, a salesman from a nationally known billboard company stopped in to see me (and probably everyone else up and down the street). He had a deal just for me! A billboard down the street had just become available. (It seems that lately, everyone has ways for me to spend my money.)
I listened. I received a copy of the proposal and told him to let me take a look at the billboard and I’d get back with him. We talked for a while and seemed to get along quite well. He was actually from Columbus and traveled to Dayton and other surrounding communities selling billboard space.
I checked out the billboard location on the way home that night. It had one major issue – it was on the wrong side of the street. If it was seen, it would only be by those going away from my store, not toward it.
I wear a long-sleeved dress shirt and tie to work, six days a week, all year round. (My wife buys them, I just have to wear them.) So what does this have to do with anything? Just keep reading.
A week later, the billboard salesman stopped back in. He was wearing a long-sleeved dress shirt and tie. On his first visit, he was wearing a polo-style shirt (without his company’s logo).
He told me when he went home that night after our first visit, he told his wife about meeting me, our conversations and of my appearance vs. his. She said to him, well, maybe if you want to do business with people wearing shirts and ties, you should wear something similar, which he seemed to agree with.
Now, long-sleeved dress shirts and ties might not be for everyone, and I’m not telling anyone how to dress. I have been to many pawnshops where the employees wear cut off shorts and wife beaters (men’s close fitting, ribbed, sleeveless white cotton undershirt most commonly used before T-shirts came into vogue as undergarments. It is named “wife beater” after Marlon Brando’s character, Stanley Kowalski, who wore one during much of the movie version of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. Stanley proved to be a sloppy, drunken, ill-tempered brute who beat his wife.)
Now if this is the image you want to portray to your customers there is probably no reason to read any further. But I hope most pawnbrokers who read this magazine and the articles within are trying to better themselves and their business image.
It’s Not Size That Matters
Whether you are a two-man operation or employ 100 or more, the way your customers see you or your employees can make a difference in the way they think and feel the business is operated.
If you are going to be assuming a position of authority, you need to look the part. No matter if it is a uniform look, a store shirt, or a shirt and tie, appearance does matter.
How would you feel if you went to a new doctor’s office and the doctor entered the room looking like he just changed his own car’s engine oil?
If you didn’t know the guy, you might be having second thoughts about being there (I, at least, hope he washed his hands). Although he might get a pass if he was wearing a funny-looking golf outfit and your appointment was just before noon on Wednesday.
By the same thought process, if you took your car in for new brakes and the mechanic was wearing a clean lab coat and had a fresh manicure, you might wonder if he even knew where the brakes were located.
OK, so maybe a shirt and tie isn’t for you, it’s just too uppity for your demeanor and your customers are more laid back. You want to relate to them more on a one-on-one basis.
Then a store shirt may be the right item to convey this message and still let your customers know you belong to the organization whose name in on the front of the building.
Store shirts and/or a uniform dress code also help you control the appearance of all the other employees.
The goal is to set a professional image to go with your business. I have read that when employees dress in attire which reflects they are part of a team, they tend to act accordingly.
I performed an informal survey of the local pawnshops (I asked my pawn detective) and found that in about 50 percent of the shops, employees wore a company shirt.
Be it long sleeved, short sleeved, button down or polo (definitely no T-shirts), we’re trying to create an image here, that of a class act. During certain times of the year, a jersey might be a unique touch of style if done in good taste and worn during a season, series, and tournament or bowl game. (Note: The jersey should have your store name on it, not a pro team. No need to start a controversy with customers who may favor a different team.)
If your employees work five or six days a week, you should probably furnish them with at least three or four shirts. The shirts should be replaced once a year so they continue to look fresh.
If you offer seasonal shirts (summer and winter/short sleeve and long sleeve), your number will increase. In bulk, you can purchase embroidered shirts relatively inexpensively. You may also want to consider heavier weight shirts or sweatshirts. Sorry, in my opinion hoodies are a definite no-no.