People & Human Resources

Fast Lane: What happens when you wear the same thing to work every day?

Cara Waters /

Art director Matilda Kahl made a revolutionary decision one Monday morning after arriving late to a meeting because she couldn’t decide what to wear.

Kahl adopted a “work uniform” and now every day she wears a white shirt, black pants and a black leather rosette around her neck. 

She’s been doing this for three years now and wrote about her decision last week on Harpers Bazaar in a post which quickly went viral.

Kahl is the first to note this isn’t news to half the population who already have a “work uniform” in the form of a suit.

“I knew my male colleagues were taken seriously no matter what they wore—and I highly doubted they put in as much sartorial time and effort as I had,” Kahl says.

Barack Obama has fine tuned the “suit uniform” approach to only wearing gray or blue suits.

“I’m trying to pare down decisions,” he told Vanity Fair.

“I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

For those with more relaxed sartorial standards there’s Mark Zuckerberg for inspiration.

Facebook’s founder is famous for wearing a hoodie and jeans day-in and day-out.

He initially copped flack from potential Facebook investors.

“He’s actually showing investors he doesn’t care that much; he’s going to be him,” analyst Michael Patcher said. “I think that’s a mark of immaturity.”

Zuckerberg has been vindicated in his clothing choices by Facebook’s share price and the Mashable article “Why successful men wear the same thing every day”.

But as TV presenter Karl Stefanovic proved earlier this year, while it may be acceptable for men to have a work uniform, for women the choice is more fraught.

Red Balloon founder and Shark Tank judge Naomi Simson wears a red dress every day to work (and to filming) ever since a colleague told her years ago, “if she wanted to be a CEO she better start looking like one”.

Simson’s red dress has become her “uniform” and symbol of the Red Balloon brand. 

It’s food for thought: when clothing is trumpeted as part of your personal branding, perhaps wearing the same thing every day can be even more effective branding for your business.

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Cara Waters

Cara Waters is a former SmartCompany editor. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter for the Financial Times' website and worked for The Sunday Times in London.

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