‘Uniform’ is commonly recognised as both a unity of garment, and as a specific related set of rules that are instructing or commanding its proper appearance, uses, and user's conduct. In general understanding, uniforms are mostly perceived as a sort of restricting mechanisms of appearance, that disrupt or decrease freedoms, agencies, and self-expression. Somewhat, such perception might be justified, not only contextually – in terms of social positioning and the role uniforms play – but also in terms of the imposed unification of the visual expression felt as uniformity, getting materialised into uniform-clothing. As a restriction or, at least, a strong regulation of the non-verbal sartorial communication, uniforms can thus be seen as repressive.
Two years ago, while residing in Rĳeka, a Croatian city that was to become European capital of culture in 2020, I have developed a project that questions this prevalent view of uniforms and complicates their social role and meaning. In collaboration with various local stakeholders, and working within the cultural organisation ‘ECOC Rĳeka 2020’, I have conceptualised and completed a project of "Uniforms for cultural workers" (individuals and groups working in creative industries or belonging to creative professions). The project builds upon the realisation that the repressive dimension of uniforms always comes with its liberating shadows – spaces of possibility and change. Many authors and designers already recognised how the uniform, as an attire, presents a point of tension between the sartorial aspects of group identity-building, on the one hand, and the individual expressions and freedoms, on the other hand.