UNIFORMS AND INSIGNIA. When Sloan Wilson used the title 'The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit' for his 1955 novel, he was suggesting that the ordinary business suit&emdash;as worn by eager young executives looking for promotions&emdash;had attained the status of a uniform. It had become a distinctive type of clothing worn by a whole class of individuals engaged in similar tasks. A uniform is a specially designed type of clothing that has the purpose of designating what the wearer does.

In some cases uniforms carry insignia&emdash;some kind of badge, usually made of cloth or metal, that indicates rank, specialty, or unit for military personnel. Indications of rank are also worn on some nonmilitary uniforms, such as those worn by police officers.

Uniforms are often associated with people in military service, but there are many other vocations that require them. Among the uniforms most commonly seen by the public are those worn by police officers and fire fighters. Bus drivers and postal employees also wear company uniforms. People who work in restaurants&emdash;waiters and waitresses, bartenders, cooks, and busboys&emdash;often wear uniforms. Employees of fast-food restaurants, such as McDonald's, Burger King, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, wear uniforms designed by their companies.


Children who are in the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Camp Fire, and other youth organizations wear the uniforms of their organizations, and sometimes the uniforms have insignia indicating achievement (see also Youth Organizations). Some children wear uniforms to school. The clothing worn by priests and nuns in the Roman Catholic church can be considered uniforms.

The military uniform conveys authority. It is likely that similar clothing was adopted for this reason by nonmilitary organizations backed by the power of the state, such as police and fire departments. Other individuals who have commanding authority within their workplaces wear military-like uniforms&emdash;airline pilots, ship captains, and passenger train conductors, for instance.

The colorful uniforms worn by high school, college, and university marching bands are derived from the similar uniforms worn by British and French soldiers of the 18th and 19th centuries. These uniforms are probably more similar in appearance to their original models than any others. Even so nonmilitary a uniform as that worn by baseball players originated with the garb worn by soldiers during the American Civil War. Today's team uniforms are worn mostly as a means of telling which team a player is on. © 1995, Compton's New Media, Inc.


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