Posties get a new look: How Royal Mail uniforms have changed through the ages

Styles have come a long way since the formal suits of the 1960s

We’re not the only ones switching up our looks this summer: postal workers are set to get new uniforms.

It’s the first sartorial change in over a decade for Royal Mail staff, and the new uniforms will include walking trousers, shorts, tops, jackets, gilets and headwear.

The designs have been based on feedback from postmen and women, taking into account the changing nature of the job.

Royal Mail workers modelling a new uniform for postmen and women

Royal Mail workers modelling a new uniform

The work of a postie in 2021 is significantly different to when Royal Mail first launched in 1516 (back then, the service was only available for the King and his court). Today, the job is more physical – there’s been a big shift away from letters towards bulkier parcel deliveries – and the new uniform hopes to better reflect that.

According to the Postal Museum, the Royal Mail’s first official uniform came in 1784: a red coat with gold braid and navy accents. A far cry from the new update – although the colour scheme is still broadly the same.

The early 20th century saw huge innovations as women’s uniforms were introduced, and there have been continuous changes from the 1960s to today…

The 1960s…

New Postal Service uniforms in 1969

New uniforms in 1969

Uniforms in the 1960s hardly looked the picture of comfort. Posties wore full suits – either double or single-breasted – with ties, dress shoes and hats. The signature colour of Royal Mail is red (perhaps because of its royal connotations) – but you wouldn’t see that in the muted greys and blues of these uniforms.

Royal Mail also tried out a new design for post boxes at this time (as you can see above) – but much like the uniforms, the mini-Tardis style didn’t last long.

The 1970s…

British Postal Service Trialling new uniforms in 1978

Trialling new uniforms in 1978

New lightweight materials were trialled in the summer of 1978. At this time, postwomen had a choice: they could wear trousers or two types of skirt – one slim fitting, and the other more flared.

The 1980s…

Two postal workers model the latest dresswear for winter weather

Winter uniforms in 1984

By the 1980s, it looks like shoes were becoming more comfortable – better suited to the miles a postal worker has to walk every day.

Styles were still relatively formal, but posties started wearing more practical, heavy-duty winter coats to ward off the cold. While it might not have been much protection against the winter chill, we can’t help but love the chic beret this postwoman is modelling.

The 1990s…

Two members of the Royal Mail test their new trial postal bikes in 1990

Two members of the Royal Mail test their new trial postal bikes in 1990

One of the biggest and best innovations of the Nineties were breezy culottes for women – they had the smartness of a skirt, but the wearability of shorts.

Speaking of shorts, today, we rarely see postal workers out of shorts, but it was only in 1992 that they were first allowed to wear dark styles in hot weather.

The Noughties…

A postman pictured in 2008

A postman pictured in 2008

Things really started to change in the Noughties: uniforms were noticeably more relaxed, and there were lots of thoughtful touches – such as specific pockets to help store electronic scanning devices. While some employees still wore shirts, there was also more options for comfortable dressing – from T-shirts to shorts and cagoules for wet weather.

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2nd Jul 2021
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I would like to comment on the article ''Royal Mail Uniforms through the ages''
This a true story:- I would be about 8 years of age, back in the mid 1950's.
My father was about to leave for work, when he spotted the Postman walking up the path. Mt Father greeted him with a ''Good Morning'' and held out his hand to receive the mail.
The Postman informed my Father that he could not give him the Mail. It had to go through the letterbox ..after all! my Father may not be the person who dwells in the house.
My Father then put his hand behind the letterbox of the open door and waited for the Postman to deliver said mail through the slot.
My Father's favourite word when angry was ''Bugger'' I heard this several times, accompanied by a Victor Meldrew ''I don't Bloody Believe It''
This scenario was made even funnier when, as stated, my Father was heading off to work ...dressed in full Policeman's Uniform.

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