Back to Basics is an article series highlighting important, but possibly overlooked, information that security professionals should know.
Sporting a white short-sleeved shirt, a black tie, and a badge, mall security guard Paul Blart ended up being a hero in the 2009 movie thanks to his quick thinking and evasive actions. His uniform made him stand out among shoppers at the West Orange Pavilions Mall to deter shoplifting and provide guidance to shoppers. While many shopping centers have similarly dressed security guards, choosing a uniform is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Security uniform styles were one of the topics discussed during the recent session “Review of Untapped Innovative Opportunities and Possibilities Around Healthcare Physical Security” at the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety’s 54th Annual Conference and Exhibit 2022, held in Reno, Nevada, and online.
According to speaker Kat Kemper, who serves as Director of Security for HCA Healthcare in Nashville, Tennessee, there are two categories of security uniforms:
- Soft—These focus on customer service and blend into the environment and include plainclothes and formal uniforms.
- Hard—These demand authority and stand out. They also convey a strong security presence, such as ones with the police look or that have the words “security” on them, and include casual, reflective, and semiformal uniforms.
Kemper presented a slideshow of security professionals wearing the colors blue, white, and black—the primary colors professionals wear in that industry.
5 Major Types of Security Uniforms
The softest of all security uniforms, plainclothes uniforms are not visually distinguishable to the public. This is especially helpful when discretely watching people in retail environments. It is also beneficial in other places when conducting internal investigations where theft of company property is a problem. These discrete professionals will be able to catch robbers in the act of stealing and more easily spot suspicious activity.
Plainclothes security uniforms should be considered if working in the following locations:
- Retail stores
- Office buildings
- Public utilities
- Churches and worship centers
Some security managers have their security professionals wear casual clothing such as polo shirts, fleece vests, or windbreakers. This is a good idea especially for professionals who are working during the daytime primarily outside in areas away from motor vehicles. For high visibility and for a hard security uniform, consider having the word “security” in big black letters on the front or back. For a softer look, consider just having a small badge or nameplate on.
Casual security uniforms should be considered if working in the following locations:
- Amusement and water parks
- Beaches, trails, and nature parks
- Cruise ships
- Distribution centers
Those security professionals working near motor vehicle traffic should be wearing highly reflective vests, jackets, shirts, clothing, and hats. Consider having the word “security” in black on the vest. Reflective clothing is especially important if working outside at night or during foggy or rainy conditions. A rechargeable torch line baton or reflective handheld sign can also be helpful for directing traffic and pedestrians.
Reflective security uniforms should be considered if doing the following types of work:
- Parking services for fairs, carnivals, and large events;
- Directing vehicular traffic through your commercial property for special events;
- Helping pedestrians cross busy intersections before and after events; and
- Nighttime security for outside areas that are currently closed to the public, such as beaches and parks.
Security managers who want their staff to look semiformal should consider the police look, with a button-up dress shirt in the color blue, black, white, or gray. A small badge or design could be added onto the breast and a patch with the security company’s name near the shoulder. The uniform could also include a tie and/or a hat, and you could consider having a nameplate on the shirt.
Semiformal security uniforms should be considered if working in the following locations:
- Large entertainment venues
- Retail and shopping centers
Some security professionals want their personnel to look extremely professional while blending in with their environment. These types of uniforms often include a two- or three-piece suit and often don’t have a badge or any indication they are security. Unlike plainclothes uniform security, formal uniform security gives off a classier vibe.
Formal security uniforms should be considered if working in the following locations:
- Secret Service
- Bars and nightclubs
- Escorting famous people
Whether you decide to have your security professionals dress in plainclothes, casual, reflective, semiformal, or formal attire, it’s important that the entire security department have the right tools to be able to do their job safely and effectively.