It is more than a little amusing that one of the most heated topics of discussion in a 9-1-1 Center revolves around a topic that some may see as trivial. It should not be a shock to anyone that has watched the passionate and pitched battle that accompanies the introduction of school uniforms that this topic can result in arguments, cat-fights, hurt feelings, and bitterness.
However, from my prospective, this debate is truly not a debate at all. If 9-1-1 is a profession, then we need to express that: completely. In our attitude, in our performance, and in our appearance. Can you think of any profession that does not have some sort of uniform or standard of dress that is presentable? If a doctor came into your hospital room or a lawyer into your courtroom looking like a slob then how much faith would you have in their talent, knowledge, or ability?
Looking into the mirror and seeing a well dressed professional looking back is an simple yet brilliant way to increase our own perceptions and expectations of our performance and share that message with the world.
Perhaps your agency doesn't have a formal uniform. That still doesn't mean you need to show up to work in shorts, flip-flops, and a tank top. Buy some khakis at WalMart or Target, some plain polo or dress shirts of a matching color, and set the tone. It may also be appropriate to wear shirts relevant to your discipline, but that is on case by case and local basis.
More importantly, whether you wear a formal uniform or one of your own creation, keep it up and in good condition. The only thing worse than not wearing a uniform is wearing one that is shoddy, tattered, and torn.
It may seem like a simple thing, but if we present ourselves to the world in a professional manner, it is a good step towards getting the world to see us a professionals. Granted, it may be an adjustment, but in the end its worth it. And, to be honest, people at work don't want to see you in shorts or a tank-top anyway.