Uniform vs. Retail Garments - What's the difference?

Uniform vs. Retail Garments - What's the difference?

Whether garments are labelled ‘uniform’ or not it’s all the same thing, clothes are just clothes, right?

Well, actually, that’s not always the case. There can be many subtle differences between the  garments you purchase from a retail store & those from a uniform manufacturer.

Here are just a few…

Not all garments are created equal

We all know that the retail world is operating on a faster turnaround than ever.

New styles grace the shelves of our favourite stores every few weeks.

While this may seem like a treat - it comes at a cost.

The quality (construction, materials, finishes, etc.) of retail clothing is on the decline. In order to keep up with the pace of fast fashion, corners must be cut & the end product suffers.

However, clothing that has been made specifically for uniform has not experienced the same phenomena. That is because they don’t operate based on current ‘trends’.

Uniform clothing is actually made to last longer.

Materials are chosen & garments are constructed with the knowledge that they will be worn & laundered frequently.

Most of us spend the majority of the week in work clothes. That said, it makes sense that if they are made to last, it will save you both time & money.

Ongoing style availability

Imagine creating the perfect uniform, kitting out your team & then going back a few weeks later to find your items are no longer stocked.

This is what will inevitably happen if you’re shopping for uniforms in retail stores.

And it's not just those shopping for a group of people that will experience this problem.

Those of you buying work clothes for yourself will know the frustrating tale:

You search & search until finally - success! You’ve found the perfect pair of work pants.

You wear them all year & return to the same store the next year for a refresh.

But disaster strikes - they don’t have them anymore. Even worse, none of the garments in store fit like they did last year.

You’re back to square one in the search for a great work outfit.

Uniforms are made to combat this issue.

The majority of uniform styles have ‘ongoing availability’.

Essentially, this means you’ll be able to get your hands on most styles year after year.

No more wasting your time having to rethink your uniform every few months when something goes out of production.

Larger size ranges

Uniforms are made for people of all shapes & sizes.

They tend to go up to sizes that are not available in your average retail store.

This means that the whole team can be decked out in the same clothes, without worrying about size variations.

Staff uniforms make assistance easy to locate thus improving customer experience & increasing sales. An undeniable win.

Furthermore, while less common sizes often attract a much higher price point in the retail world, in the uniform world, they don’t.

Larger colour ranges

Retail stores generally offer products in the ‘popular colours’ of the moment.

(And, as I said earlier, they probably won’t be available for long).

But what if you need a colour that is unusual or not popular at the moment?

It can be incredibly hard to find a garment in a specific colour in a retail store - they seem to be unavailable the moment you start looking for them.

That’s not to mention if you need a garment in two colours ie. a polo that comes in black/fluoro green or purple/white.

That’s where uniforms come in to save the day.

Uniform companies create basic products in a range of different colours.

This means you’ll be able to get uniforms in your brand colours all year round.

Uniforms come without branding so you can add your own

This one is pretty straightforward, although people don’t always think of it.

We often encounter clients asking us to cover up existing branding on retail garments with theirs. Unfortunately, this is not always possible.

If you’re in business, you want what you’re wearing to be promoting your brand & not someone else's.

That is why uniform garments are made without branding. So you can add your own logo - no fuss.


Garments created specifically for uniforms are made so they can be branded.

This may mean they have special access points for embroidery, or they are made out of fabrics that are perfect for screen printing, digital transfers, etc.

However, this is not the case for your average retail garment. As these garments aren’t made to be branded there are many issues that can arise when trying to add logos.

They may not have big enough access points to fit branding machinery, or they are made out of fabric that support high temperatures.

Quite often, colour fastness and dye migration from the fabric to the branding can become an issue as when the fabrics are not set properly in the factory.

Some retail garments are made from fabric that would not survive the branding process unscathed & can cause damage to the branding machinery.

The greatest issue is usually that we just don't know how the garment will react under the heat or pressure that is applied to it when branding, as they're neither specifically made for it nor previously tested.  

Uniform garments are usually cheaper 

Stripped of the retail branding & massive marketing budgets that come with that, uniform garments are often cheaper than their like for like counterparts in retail stores. When quality is factored in as well (see above) then the value proposition is undeniable. 

As uniforms are usually sold in bulk lots, with a product design life cycle that stretches out over years rather than weeks, the manufacturing set up & investment costs can be much lower on a per unit basis.

Sometimes retail garments might be OK for your needs

So far we've spent a fair bit of time pointing out the benefits of uniform garments, but sometimes these points don't apply or won't matter.


  • You won't be repeating the order again,
  • You got the garments super, super cheap & you don't care how they look
  • You found all the sizes you need,
  • If you won't be adding new staff in the future

Then by all means go with retail.

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