- The uniform as a group emblem
As an emblem of a group, the uniform becomes the group. And an individual’s behavior respects or disrespects the uniform, rather than the group. Individuals outside the calling or profession can also use the uniform to express their opinions of the group — by wearing military clothing as casual streetwear, for example, or damaging or destroying a uniform as a symbolic protest.
- The uniform reveals and conceals status
A uniform immediately identifies its wearer as a member of a group. And often the wearer of a uniform is discouraged from expressing their individual attitudes or opinions. Further, a uniform conceals most other forms of status or class — a judge’s personal style or social status is masked by his or her robe.
- The uniform is a certificate of legitimacy
A uniform is usually conveyed through a hierarchy, and identifies its wearer as an authorized agent of the group. It “is a symbolic statement that the wearer will adhere to group norms and standardized roles, and has mastered essential group skills and values.” This is an important symbol both for the individuals wearing the uniform, and those they interact with.
- The uniform suppresses individuality
An individual in uniform who does not follow accepted norms and standards is much more obvious to the world. A sleeping detective in a car may not raise notice. But a sleeping policeman in uniform most certainly will. And often, uniforms will come with extensive prohibitions or guidelines about how they can be modified by the wearer.