Taking notice of people in uniforms has multiple benefits for me. First, it’s my job as Marketing Director for a uniform manufacturer. Second, and more importantly, it gives me an excuse to meet new interesting people. So last weekend I went to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and made a point to check out the staff’s attire.The style was sophisticated but unlike most uniforms they weren’t obviously branded with the typical embroidered logos. It is the world-famous Whitney Museum of American Art, after all. They took a more subtle but highly effective branding approach. After speaking with the guard for a few minutes I learned that the sharp-looking, low-key uniform tells a New York story. The discovery inspired me to retell this story—which is the ultimate goal of any good branding promotion.

Hat-Tip to Museum’s Clever Design Reference

The Whitney Staff Uniform is a basic black program consisting of a blazer, black pants and a tie. It’s a lot like most uniforms. The tie is a custom design that references the wall and signage graphics throughout the new building—geometric fine lines that zigzag on a black field. I recognized the design as I got closer and thought the subtle hat-tip was a clever alternative to a big logo. The most unique part of the outfit was a small tie pin in the shape of a honey bee. This tiny “add-on” prompted me to ask the guards about it. Here’s where the New York story comes in.

Whitney Museum Uniforms EA Blog Post

Eric Vermilion and Jessie Jenkins, staff members at The Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC.

In 2010, when home beekeeping became legal, Adam Weinberg the Whitney’s Director started an informal beekeeping program on the roof of the old Whitney building on Madison Avenue. The bees could fly out to Central Park to do their pollinating work and back home to the roof. It was a plentiful environment for the bees. Chucker Branch and Christine Lehner, owners the Hudson Valley’s Let It Bee Apiary Hudson Valley tend to the Whitney bees along with hives in 10 or more locations in New York State.

The Whitney Museum Moves

When the Whitney moved to it’s new location by the river and the Highline, Branch and Lehner oversaw the transition and they happily continue to tend the roof- hives presently. The Whitney rooftop bees produce award-winning honey sold exclusively in the gift shop and online store. The gift shop also sells the symbolic bee tie pins designed by New York Jewelry Designer Michelle Benjamin.

The charming bee pins (retail value $120) are given to each security guard as a special part of their new uniform. I learned first-hand about how proud they are to wear the uniform and tell the story of the bees on the roof. When I think of all the stories that the Whitney has been host to over the years, I think I like this one the best. The Whitney Celebrity Bees are living art. I wonder how many times a day that story is told?

Can Your Uniform Tell Your Story?

Share this story with your next uniform program customer. Can you inspire them to work a unique company story into their uniform branding? If you are buying new uniforms for your staff tell your distributor this story. A good distributor can help you implement a similar strategy for your company’s branding project.