Showing up to the office in the same thing every day worked for Steve Jobs.
The late Apple CEO would have been lauded as an industry icon regardless of what he wore but over the years his signature look made him as recognisable as the Apple logo itself.
And for a while he even entertained the notion that Apple staff would be just as happy to don the same outfit day after day.
Gawker reports Jobs became enamoured with the concept of a corporate uniform in the early 80s after a visit to Japan, where he saw how corporations such as Sony used them to boost staff loyalty, according to an excerpt from the Walter Issacson biography of Steve Jobs out on Monday.
Sony's uniform was a jacket with sleeves that could unzip to become a vest, so Jobs asked its designer, Issey Miyake, if he would create something for Apple.
"I came back with some samples and told everyone it would great if we would all wear these vests. Oh man, did I get booed off the stage. Everybody hated the idea," said Jobs.
After Apple staff back home in Silicon Valley put the kibosh on his suggestion that they wear a company vest, Jobs went on to adopt his own personal uniform of jeans and Issey Miyake black turtleneck.
Corporate image consultant Clare Maxfield said Jobs was on the money, when it came to the benefits of a company uniform.
“Uniforms are the best way to create brand awareness and for a company to instil pride, and people don't have to worry about how much money they've got [to spend on clothes],” Maxfield says.
“They look like they work for someone.”
Jobs may have failed to get his troops into uniform but by the early nineties, the IT industry had adopted its own distinctive dress code.
The ubiquitous chinos and polo shirt combination has saved thousands of techie types, from Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer down, from having to wake up and wonder what to wear each day.
Although Jobs's successor, Tim Cook has resisted adopting Job's signature turtleneck, he has still embraced the "CEO casual" dress style with dark polo shirts featuring in several public outings, which he swapped for a dark, collared shirt and jeans at the iPhone 4S launch.
“The IT industry has been at the forefront of casualisation of the workforce,” Image Group International chief executive, Jon Michail says.
Where IT led, other sectors followed. Some architects and engineers have tried on the chinos and polo look for size, but many who work directly with clients still need to be seen in a suit, Michail says.
Uniform Superstore managing director Jason Ham agrees: “In the early 90s, everyone was rocking up in jeans and polos – we're finding there's been a shift back to a more corporate look,” he says.
Unless you work in the creative sphere, that is. According to Maxfield, arty types have always been a motley crew.
“They're the least uniformed of anyone – there's no rhyme or reason to what they're wearing,” she says.
Airlines, retail banks and other service industry firms continue to use easily recognisable uniforms as a cornerstone of their branding strategies but in other industries they’re on the decline.
“People are more and more about wanting the best for themselves,” Maxfield says.
“They stay in jobs for a shorter amount of time and they will rebel against uniforms because their individuality is at risk and they feel threatened.
“What’s on the rise though is people wanting to look better.”
Real estate agents were quick to cotton onto the advantages of marketing their own personal images, ahead of those of their employers.
Some of the most successful work at selling themselves first, the latest ‘des res’ on their books second, and the agency they work for third.
As part of this process, they’ve shucked off their corporate print blouses and monogrammed blazers of a decade ago in favour of free dress, The Corporate Clothing Co. managing director Gregg Claxton says.
“Now they’re all going for an individual look.”
In the professional world, the uniform has always been notable by absence, unless it’s for the clerical or administration staff. Legal and finance types may spend Monday to Friday in their de facto uniform of double cuffs and double breasted but they don’t want it to have a logo on the pocket.
Claxton says he is contacted by a law firm about once a year on average, usually at the instigation of its office manager.
“We’re asked to pitch but it just doesn’t take off,” he says.
"They want a proposal but they never get off the ground.”
Michail says accountancy and law firms use strict professional appearance codes in place of uniforms.
In tough times, an immaculately dressed workforce can provide a company with an edge over sartorially slack competitors, he says.
“Standard of dress increases dramatically when competition gets greater.”
But for those in the upper echelons, uniforms themselves don’t work, Michail says – unless you’re a general, judge or royalty, that is.