IELTS Academic Reading Sample 22 - First Impressions Count


A Traditionally uniforms were — and for some industries still are — manufactured to protect the worker. When they were first designed, it is also likely that all uniforms made symbolic sense - those for the military, for example, were originally intended to impress and even terrify the enemy; other uniforms denoted a hierarchy - chefs wore white because they worked with flour, but the main chef wore a black hat to show he supervised.

B The last 30 years, however, have seen an increasing emphasis on their role in projecting the image of an organisation and in uniting the workforce into a homogeneous unit — particularly in ‘customer facing" industries, and especially in financial services and retailing. From uniforms and workwear has emerged ‘corporate clothing’. "The people you employ are your ambassadors," says Peter Griffin, managing director of a major retailer in the UK. "What they say, how they look, and how they behave is terribly important." The result is a new way of looking at corporate workwear. From being a simple means of identifying who is a member of staff, the uniform is emerging as a new channel of marketing communication.

C Truly effective marketing through visual cues such as uniforms is a subtle art, however. Wittingly or unwittingly, how we look sends all sorts of powerful subliminal messages to other people. Dark colours give an aura of authority while lighter pastel shades suggest approachability. Certain dress style creates a sense of conservatism, others a sense of openness to new ideas. Neatness can suggest efficiency but, if it is overdone, it can spill over and indicate an obsession with power. "If the company is selling quality, then it must have quality uniforms. If it is selling style, its uniforms must be stylish. If it wants to appear innovative, everybody can’t look exactly the same. Subliminally we see all these things," says Lynn Elvy, a director of image consultants House of Colour.

D But translating corporate philosophies into the right mix of colour, style, degree of branding and uniformity can be a fraught process. And it is not always successful. According to Company Clothing magazine, there are 1000 companies supplying the workwear and corporate clothing market. Of these, 22 account for 85% of total sales - £380 million in 1994.

E A successful uniform needs to balance two key sets of needs. On the one hand, no uniform will work if staff feel uncomfortable or ugly. Giving the wearers a choice has become a key element in the way corporate clothing is introduced and managed. On the other, it is pointless if the look doesn’t express the business’s marketing strategy. The greatest challenge in this respect is time. When it comes to human perceptions, first impressions count. Customers will size up the way staff look in just a few seconds, and that few seconds will colour their attitudes from then on. Those few seconds can be so important that big companies are prepared to invest years, and millions of pounds, getting them right.

F In addition, some uniform companies also offer rental services. "There will be an increasing specialisation in the marketplace," predicts Mr Blyth, Customer Services Manager of a large UK bank. The past two or three years have seen consolidation. Increasingly, the big suppliers are becoming ‘managing agents’, which means they offer a total service to put together the whole complex operation of a company’s corporate clothing package - which includes reliable sourcing, managing the inventory, budget control and distribution to either central locations or to each staff member individually. Huge investments have been made in new systems, information technology and amassing quality assurance accreditations.

G Corporate clothing does have potentials for further growth. Some banks have yet to introduce a full corporate look; police forces are researching a completely new look for the 21st century. And many employees now welcome a company wardrobe. A recent survey of staff found that 90 per cent welcomed having clothing which reflected the corporate identity.


Questions 28-33
The passage First Impressions Count has seven paragraphs A—G. Which paragraphs discuss the following points? Write the appropriate letters A-G in boxes 28-33 on your answer sheet.

Example                                                                                            Answer
the number of companies supplying the corporate clothing market                D

28  different types of purchasing agreement
29  the original purposes of uniforms
30  the popularity rating of staff uniforms
31  involving employees in the selection of a uniform
32  the changing significance of company uniforms
33  perceptions of different types of dress


Questions 34-40
Do the following statements agree with the views of the writer of the passage? In boxes 34-40 on your answer sheet write

YES               if the statement agrees with the writer’s views
NO                 if the statement contradicts the writer’s views
NOT GIVEN   if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this

34  Uniforms were more carefully made in the past than they are today.
35  Uniforms make employees feel part of a team.
36  Using uniforms as a marketing tool requires great care.
37  Being too smart could have a negative impact on customers.
38  Most businesses that supply company clothing are successful.
39  Uniforms are best selected by marketing consultants.
40  Clothing companies are planning to offer financial services in the future.

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1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Rating 3.50 (27 Votes)

Khurram Shahzad
Same confusion.
How can we get some justifications to the Yes, No, and Not Given Questions?
Uniting the workforce into a homogeneous unit.
I strongly agree.
Thank you so much, IELTS Mentor. I did it; 13/13 in 20 minutes.
Overdone in this case means when you think about uniform too much, you make it over-normal-requirement, similar with too smart.
The answer to the question 40 is 'Yes'. Read the paragraph 'F', line no 4 onwards where it mentions about budget control. Budget control is itself a part of financial services. That's a 'Yes' in my opinion.
IETLS MENTOR,Can you please explain the answer for 37? In the paragraph, it is given about neatness and it doesn't mean smart. So how come the answer is 'Yes'?
Wouldn't it be 'not given' in this case? NO means that financial services will NOT be offered in the future and the text does not say that.
40 NO, because it's clear from the text that such kind of services are available nowadays, while the question statement reads "in the future".
35. Where does it say that - "uniting the workforce into a homogeneous unit"?
If a boss decides he wants to do that, it has nothing to do with how employees might feel. Welcomed having clothing which reflected the corporate identity."

Just because they like having such clothing, that doesn't mean they feel part of a team. I could like having sport social clothing which reflects my company's image of seriousness, and not really feel a part of a team. That sentence itself does not make the answer to question 35 a 'yes', the author didn't say that.

37. "Neatness can suggest efficiency but, if it is overdone, it can spill over".
Overdoing neatness has nothing to do with being too smart... I could not find any other passage which would corroborate with 37's statement.

40. Budget control is a financial service (just google it to check). The text suggests in paragraph 'F' that uniform companies (big suppliers) are starting to provide services such as budget control, among others. So that's a 'yes' in my opinion.

What is budget control if not a financial service?
Dear IELTS Mentor team,

Could you please explain the answers to questions 35 and 37?

37. I would say that there is no information that says 'being smart has a negative influence on customers'. Neatness and efficiency do not attribute to being smart. And there is no information about a negative influence on customers.

35. Not given. "Uniting the workforce into a homogeneous unit" doesn't implicate how the employee feels.

Thank so much for all your effort! Best regards!

A recent survey of staff found that 90 per cent welcomed having clothing which reflected the corporate identity.
Would 'budget control' be considered as 'finance service'?
In addition, some uniform companies also offer rental services, contradictory to the question 40.
In addition, some uniform companies also offer rental services. I believe the answer to the question 40 is 'NO' for this reason.
I think the following sentence show that - "... and in uniting the workforce into a homogeneous unit..."
Can anyone help me? I just can't find it in the passage.
IELTS Mentor
Hi, Bella. Those samples are taken from past IELTS tests.
Hi, Mentor! Did this question come out in original IELTS test? Are all these questions given (all samples) from past years' papers?
Could anybody show me which sentence indicates that 'Uniforms make employees feel part of a team.'? Thank you.
IELTS Mentor
Question 40 - Clothing companies are planning to offer financial services in the future.The texts you are referring points out that that, some banks have not introduced a full corporate look so they might do it in the near future. But that is not the statement in the question. The question, on the other hand, is referring that 'Clothing companies are planning to offer financial services in the future.'This might seem 'NG' at a glance but if you read the paragraph 'F' carefully, you will find that the answer is 'N'. Hope this clarifies your doubt.
Why the answer to the question 40 is 'NO'? Look through the text: "Corporate clothing does have potential for further growth. Some banks have yet to introduce a full corporate look."
Hi, Charm.

The answers to questions 37 and 39 are below:'

37. Neatness can suggest efficiency but, if it is overdone, it can spill over and indicate an obsession with power.

39. It is not given in the passage.

40. I couldn't find it myself, like other people. I don't know why they answered it 'NO'.

Hi, can you tell me more about the answers to the questions 37, 39 and 40? Thank you.
I also think that the answer to the last question is 'NG'. Maybe I have been mistaken.
You have taken education into a whole new world. Thanks a ton.
Thank you again for this amazing website :) Can anyone please tell me if the answer for Q. 40 is 'true' or 'false'? Because I think it should be 'NG' I have scanned the text over and over again and couldn't find it. Thanks in advance for any kind of help.
Thanks, IELTS Mentor for a very nice website for IELTS. Thanks again.
Appreciating the commitment you put into your website and detailed information you offer.