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Posti’s uniforms through the centuries

Clothes have always been a necessity as protection, but they have also conveyed a message to other people. A uniform worn at work is not just a garment but also a symbol of a position and job. Posti’s uniforms through the centuries online exhibition showcases the clothing of postal authorities and postal workers from the 17th century to the present day.

When the post office was first founded during Swedish rule in the 17th century, post was delivered on foot by peasant farmers and their farmhands. They wore the same casual clothing as they did when doing other chores, and this also applied to burghers who acted as postmasters in towns. They dressed according to the general trends of the day.

In Finland, the period of Russian rule (1809–1917) was the golden age of uniforms. Uniforms retained some their symbolic meaning until the 1970s, but since then, workwear has become more practical and reflects the corporate image of each era more clearly. The improved materials and manufacturing methods have made workwear more functional and suitable for the various tasks.

Swedish rule (1638–1809)

A post farmer wore his own clothes when delivering mail (copy)
Postmen’s uniforms

Regular postal deliveries started in Finland in 1638. It was ordered that delivering post was the responsibility of sworn post farmers, or postilions. They received various benefits as compensation for their work, but they did not wear a uniform. The post farmers wore their own clothes when they made deliveries, and they had the postal crest on the chest of their coats as an emblem of their job. They also often carried arms, such as spears, as protection against wild beasts.

In towns, one of the literate burghers was assigned to run the post office. Postmasters did not have uniforms either.

The postman´s badge from 1718 has a riding postman blowing his post horn.
brass badge

Charles XII of Sweden issued a decree to merge the post office and innkeepers in 1718. The postman’s uniform was prescribed in the decree. The jacket was to be yellow, with blue and yellow decorative trimming and brass buttons. The hat was also yellow and lined with blue so that the lining was visible from the edges. The boots were made of stout grained leather, with spurs but no collar. They also had a brass badge adorned with the royal crown on the left breast. These uniforms were given to peasants working on the roads east of Porvoo in 1725.

Gustavian costume (copy)
Postal officials’ uniforms

In 1778, Gustav III ordered all state officials to wear a national costume when at work that he designed. This order also applied to postal officers. The costume’s design was inspired by late 16th-century style, and it was intended to strengthen a sense of unity among the Swedish people. The nobility wore Gustavian uniforms specifically designed for them.

Ahvenkoski postmaster’s uniform (copy)
Special uniform for the easternmost border

The easternmost border post office in the Kingdom of Sweden was located in Ahvenkoski, in the Pyhtää area of Loviisa. The postmaster in Ahvenkoski was exceptionally given a uniform of his own in the mid-18th century because the fine uniform of the frontier post office manager was intended to send a message to Russia.

The period of autonomy (1809–1917)

As a result of the Finnish War (1808–09), Finland was separated from the Kingdom of Sweden and annexed to the Russian Empire as an autonomous Grand Duchy. In 1811, a central postal administration was established in the postal service, which was later named the Postal Administration.

Developments in Finnish society were also reflected in government employees’ uniforms. Due to bad transport connections in the 1820s and poor security provided by the police, officials were equipped with military gear. Their uniform included a cavalry sabre, spurs, pistol, military headgear and epaulettes. Spurs and sabres were left out in the late 19th century, and only the epaulettes remained of the military style.

Russian uniforms had followed the pan-European fashions until the end of the 19th century, but the style changed dramatically at the beginning of the 20th century. The nationalism that arose during the reign of Alexander III spread to all Slavic countries and was aimed at the Russification of all the countries annexed to the Russian Empire.

A postman in the 1827 uniform (copy)
Postmen’s uniforms

Postmaster General Gustaf Wilhelm Ladau proposed that postmen should wear Russian-style uniforms. The proposal was approved by the government in 1827. The uniform resembled the military uniform of the time. The headwear was a high military headdress. The tailcoat was made of dark green wool, and the collar and cuffs were black fabric. The coat had epaulettes on the shoulders and a badge on the left side of the chest. The leg-of-mutton sleeve had a voluminous gathering of fabric on the shoulder and a tight fit from the elbow to the wrist. The uniform also came with a pair of dark green trousers with piping. In summer, postmen wore white linen trousers.

A postman in the 1854 uniform (copy)
1854

In 1854, the postmen were given uniforms which were still in the style of a military uniform and included epaulettes and a sabre. The uniform jacket was of the latest fashion and called a surtout. The surtout was tight fitting, short or long, and had a seam at the waist. The trousers were grey with piping. The outfit came with five pairs of trousers: two pairs made of dark grey wool with black piping on the side, one pair of jodhpurs, and two pairs of linen trousers for the summer. The uniform also included a helmet, but it seems that the Finnish postmen did not wear it; they wore a woollen cap instead.

A rural postman
Rural postmen

As people in rural areas became better educated, and commercial, social and industrial activities intensified, people also needed to communicate more by sending letters. The rural mail delivery system was set up in 1890. Rural postmen usually did their rounds on foot, and their job was to deliver ordinary letters and newspapers. Rural postmen did not have a uniform, just a yellow ribbon on the hat or the sleeve and a mail bag.

A postman in his summer uniform in 1904
1904

New regulations regarding the uniform came into force in 1904. Dark green remained the basic colour, and the overcoat was made of dark grey wool. Postmen wore a white jacket and a white cap in the summer, from 15 May to 15 September. All government employees had a woollen peaked cap for everyday wear and a leather cap for the winter.

A postmaster’s uniform from 1854 (copy)
Postal officials’ uniforms

The postal uniforms worn in Finland have followed the trends of European occupational uniforms since the early 19th century. Officials were not paid well, so the uniform, provided free of charge by the state, was a bonus, and it was worn for as long as possible.

In 1826, a new table of ranks was issued in which government officials were divided into 14 categories and 168 different ranks. Officials of the Finnish Post Office fell into four categories:

Class V: Postmaster General in Finland (the director of the postal services)

Class VI: Assistant to the Postmaster General

Class IX: Postal Region Secretary, Chief Accountant and Postmaster

Class X: Translator, Dispatcher, Clerc and Auditor

The 1839 decree confirmed the designs and colours of officials’ uniforms. The uniforms were dark green. The collar and cuffs were either velvet or wool, and their colour and embroidery were based on the rank of the official and the insignia of each institution.

The official tailcoat was dark green and had a black velvet collar and two columns of buttons. The vest worn by postal office employees was light yellow. Officials who needed to wear an overcoat on their travels or on official business wore a dark green surtout, or long coat, with a stand-up collar.

The uniform came with five pairs of trousers: a pair of short white trousers that were worn with white silk socks and a pair of long white trousers worn over boots; two pairs of black trousers, one short pair that were worn with black silk socks and one long pair worn over boots; and a pair of dark green long trousers worn over boots.

The embroidery on the collar and cuffs was a ribbon and ball pattern for lower officials and ivy and oak leaf decoration for officials of higher ranks. The embroidery also differed depending on whether the uniform was intended for official or ceremonial use. The uniforms were decorated with embroidery until Finland became independent.

The bicorne was the official headdress. It was made of black velour, and officials with ranks lower than fifth wore a braid stripe on the hat. The button on the hat had the same pattern as the small buttons on the uniform. A bow made of ribbons of different colours was attached to the stripe.

The turbulent political conditions in Europe in the late 1840s and the rise of the bourgeoisie influenced fashions. The bourgeoisie started to wear a surtout, which became the most distinctive attire worn by civil servants in Europe. The tailcoat and knee-length trousers were abandoned in 1856, and postal officials started to wear long trousers. The third- and fourth-class officials wore white trousers at ceremonies.

A postmistress (copy)
Female officials

Legislation was passed in Finland in 1864 that granted full powers for unmarried women of 25 years of age. The postal service was one the first organisations in which women were entrusted with a public office. There are no guidelines on the uniforms of female officials from the period of autonomy. However, the Postal Museum collection has preserved the uniform of Maria Alexandra Blondine Öhberg (1847–1928), who was a postal official. She is said to have had it made at her own expense for Nikolai II’s state visit. The dark green suit has two columns of buttons and a black velvet collar folded down as in a tailcoat, as well as small tails with buttons on the back of the jacket.

The independence (1917– )

After Finland became independent in 1917, there was a desire to get rid of the tsarist symbols on uniforms. The double-headed eagle emblem on the cap and the Russian buttons were removed immediately.

Even before independence, and in the following years, the postal workers’ union was passionately lobbying for a Finnish uniform. The design for the uniform was borrowed from Sweden, and it was decided it would be dark grey. The headwear was the only piece from the first design that was actually worn by postmen, as the allowance was not sufficient to buy the entire uniform.

Before independence, postal uniforms were easy to distinguish from civilian clothes, but as the times changed, uniforms started to resemble casual clothes. The insignia had disappeared almost completely by the 1930s. Shades of grey and blue were selected as the colours for the Finnish uniform.

Posti became a state-owned enterprise in 1990 and a limited company in 1994. The posts of postal officials were replaced by employment contracts at the beginning of 1994. Uniforms were replaced by workwear, and practicality became an important element.

By the start of the 21st century, different employee groups had merged. Everyone wore the same clothes, and employees could mix and match the different parts according to their tasks and preferences.

A postal delivery worker in the 1918 uniform (copy)
Postal delivery workers’ uniforms

The first postal delivery worker’s uniform in the independent Finland was made of dark grey wool. Postal delivery workers were the only employees in Posti to have their own uniforms. The uniform’s high price, however, hindered it becoming more commonly worn by the employees and, in practice, they only wore the cap.

A postal delivery worker in the 1931 uniform (copy)
1931

Postal delivery workers were given new dark blue uniforms in 1931. The buttons were decorated with the post horn, and a bundle of lightning bolts was added to mark the merger of the postal and telegraph services in 1927. The uniform was worn by delivery workers in urban areas. Delivery workers were granted an allowance to buy the uniform, but they had to buy it according to the instructions. It was very difficult to find the materials for the uniform, especially during and after the war. The materials were also very expensive so postmen and postwomen wore whatever was available.

An annual allowance for uniforms was set aside in the state budget in 1943. This cash payment continued to be made until 1951, after which the employees were given ready-made uniforms.

Postal delivery workers wore a mixture of clothes. Here is one at work in 1955.
1956

The design of the uniform introduced in 1956 was similar to that of the 1931 uniform. The material was still solid blue wool, but 2 mm wide blue piping was sewn into the cuffs and the side seams of the trousers. Two back pockets and a watch pocket were also added to the trousers. The unlined summer jacket remained dark steel grey, but it had an open collar and three buttons in each column on the front.

The overcoat was either short, extending to about 10 cm above the knee, or long, extending to about 10 cm below the knee. In winter, delivery workers wore fur hats with a dark blue wool top and bright blue piping on the cross seams and in summer forage caps with flaps with blue piping.

Women posing in the 1956 uniform
Women's uniforms

Women who delivered mail were given their own uniforms for the first time in 1956. The uniform consisted of headgear and a blouse as well as a jacket similar to that worn by men except that the material was thinner. The jacket had a V-neck. The skirt came below the knee and had a pleat at the back. The blouse had to be a solid colour or black, and understated, and the collar had to be buttoned up, while the stockings had to be black, grey or brown.

A postal bus driver
Drivers

Drivers were given a uniform that resembled the postmen’s uniform but was grey. The cap was also grey and had the driver’s badge on top of the cockade.

A postal delivery worker in the 1978 uniform
1978

The uniforms were given a new pattern and design in 1978. The material was steel blue wool blend fabric. The range, made by Valtion pukutehdas (the state uniform factory), included straight trousers, a hidden button, a hip-length jacket, a light blue collared shirt, another two jackets and several types of hats. The cap was made of the same material as the uniform. The employees wore forage caps in summer and fur hats with black sheepskin flaps in winter.

The women’s outfit also included a knee-length A-line skirt and either a long overcoat that came below the knee or a short jacket.

A uniform worn by delivery and transport staff in 1988
1988

Post and Telecommunications celebrated its 350th anniversary in 1988, and this was marked by a new emblem and a new uniform. The new clothes were medium grey, and the designs were more practical than before. The basic outfit consisted of straight trousers and a jacket. The women’s range also featured a wrap skirt. The outfit included a yellow-and-white-striped collared shirt or a blue polo shirt. A pair of shorts and a beanie were introduced to the range for the first time. The jacket and the trousers came with reflective stripes. The outerwear was water-repellent. The clothes were also available in padded versions for winter. The workwear was intended for both delivery and transport staff, and they could combine the different clothes to suit the weather and the job they were doing.

Postal delivery workers in 1995
1994

The Post and Telecommunications became a state-owned enterprise at the beginning of 1990. Posti-Tele was incorporated in 1994, and its business and assets were transferred to Suomen PT Oy. Suomen PT was split into Post Group and Telecommunication Group in July 1998. As a result of these changes, the civil servants became employees in 1994.

The postal delivery workers were given separate outfits for the winter in 1994–1995. The yellow and black workwear included a padded jacket with a hood, padded overalls, gloves, a beanie and a neck warmer. The post emblem was on both the front and the back.

A delivery worker’s clothes from 1996
1996

It was decided in 1996 that delivery workers would need a new, uniform look. The employer paid for the basic clothes, and the employees could order a more versatile set, such as a fleece jacket, a sports jacket or shoes, by paying for these themselves. The clothes’ base colour was grey, and various yellow elements gave them a fresh look. Shoes with an elastic sole and a non-slip pattern were also available. The clothes were designed to be suitable for doing delivery rounds, and they were easy to care for.

Delivery workers in the 1998 clothes
1998

It was not until the 1990s that attention was paid to the practicality of workwear. In 1998, the clothes were redesigned to be more colourful. The main colours were yellow and grey. Delivery workers we also given new summer outfits that included a pair of shorts, a T-shirt, a cap and a pair of grey and yellow leather shoes.

The main colour of the 2003 outfit was blue.
2003

Posti’s logo was renewed in 2002, and it was also time for new workwear. A new workwear collection, designed by Sirpa Rahtu and Kati Kullberg, was introduced in January 2003. The main colour was blue, and orange was added for effect. The colour scheme and the outfits made it possible to mix and match the clothes in many ways. New fibre materials were used in the underwear. All employees wore the same workwear, regardless of whether they worked in the office or on deliveries.

The clothes were practical. Photo: Posti Group PLC.
2007

Finland Post became Itella on 1 June 2007. The delivery workers’ new uniforms were practical, and the materials were chosen to suit Finland’s variable weather conditions. The range featured clothes for heat, rain and sub-zero conditions.

Delivery workers’ clothes from the 2010s. Photo: Posti Group PLC.
2015

Itella became Posti at the beginning of 2015. Posti employees were immediately given T-shirts and beanies with the new design. The other clothes have been gradually replaced. Employees can choose from a wide range of clothes that suit their jobs. Underwear and seasonal clothes for cold weather became available so that employees could wear layers, and Gore-Tex clothes for unsettled weather.

The colours used were mainly orange and grey, but black trousers were also available. The jackets worn by delivery workers on mopeds had blue elements. Used but still wearable clothes were given to Posti employees.

A delivery worker starting a round in 2019. Photo: Posti Group PLC.
2019

Posti’s workwear collection was redesigned in 2019. The clothes are designed to withstand heavy wear in various jobs and to be as comfortable as possible in all weather conditions. The clothes are suitable for every job, such as deliveries, early deliveries, transportation and mail handling.

The design of the collection was based on the various needs of the employees. Their ideas were taken into account, and they also provided information about which materials are practical. The clothes were also tested in advance. Special attention was paid to health and safety.

The collection features a variety of options, including underwear, weatherproof outerwear, footwear and anti-slip shoes, protective clothing, hi-vis clothes, headgear and helmets. By combining and layering, everyone can choose clothes that best suit his or her job. Hi-vis clothes that improve safety are available for all jobs. Those parts of the clothes that are in constant contact with letters and parcels are grey.

A post office clerk in the 1964 uniform.
Post office clerks’ uniforms

After Finland became independent, there were no regulations concerning post office clerk uniforms, and the models were not agreed on until 1964.

The men’s jacket and trousers were grey, and the trousers were straight without turn-ups. The female clerks were given a uniform for the first time. The jacket and the skirt were grey. The jacket was a suit jacket and had three-quarter sleeves. The skirt came to just above the knee. The postal emblem in the shape of a coat of arms was attached on the chest on the left side of the jacket.

The unofficial uniform from 1970.
Women's suit 1970

A women’s suit made of green blended fabric was introduced in 1970. The jacket had three-quarter sleeves and four plastic buttons without emblems. The skirt was narrow, straight and knee-length. The jacket had a fabric Post and Telecommunications emblem on the chest. The women wore the uniform until 1978, although it was never confirmed as an official outfit. The men did not have a similar outfit.

A post office clerks' uniform in 1978.
1978

The post office clerks’ uniform in 1978 was made of a solid brown wool blend fabric. The women’s jacket was loose and hip-length, and the A-line skirt was knee-length. The outfit also included a gilet and a light brown blouse.

Post office clerks’ outfits from 1987.
1987

Postal office clerks were given a new uniform in 1987. It was made of blue and grey wool blend. The outfit for women included a long wrap skirt, which was fastened with six buttons and a buttonless gilet. The shirt was blue with yellowish-brown stripes. The men wore a three-piece suit made of the same fabric. The post office emblem was printed on the chest of the jacket and shirt.

Workwear from 1995.
1994

Posti became a limited company in 1994. It was decided that post offices should have a uniform look. Uniform clothing sent a message about a modern service company and helped build a favourable corporate image. Posts and titles were abandoned, and new job titles included sales supervisor, service sales representative and sales representative.

The workwear was designed by teachers at the University of Art and Design together with students Marja Alhonen, Eva Rahikainen and Merja Lamberg. The basic colour was plum red. The men wore a suit with a shirt and tie or a polo shirt, and the women wore either a suit with a knee-length skirt or a long skirt with a collarless jacket. The outfit could be accessorised with different jumpers, scarves or ties. The women could also choose to wear long trousers or Bermuda shorts. The clothes came without the Posti logo.

Workwear introduced in 2003.
2003

Posti’s logo was redesigned in 2002, and this was followed by new workwear in 2003. All employees wore the same workwear, regardless of whether they worked in the office or in deliveries.

The T-shirt is practical for many jobs . Photo: Posti Group PLC.
2015

In 2015, the range of clothes available for Posti employees included sweatshirts, T-shirts, fleece jackets, shoemaker’s aprons, long-sleeved twill shirts, polo shirts, gilets, trousers, capri pants and skirts. The clothes were orangey-yellow and grey. They were very practical, and everyone could order the ones he or she wanted.

The staff at S-market’s postal service point in Kaukajärvi, Tampere, wear the Pirkanmaan Osuuskauppa clothes.
2019

Posti’s workwear collection was redesigned in 2019. The new design emphasised the colour orange as the Posti’s emblem. The selection featured the same clothes as before, but the colours were changed: the clothes in the 2015 collection were in one colour, but in the 2019 collection, fleece jackets and gilets are orange and grey, for example. The trousers and skirts are in one colour.

Posti’s service points are now usually located in grocery shops and other businesses. The staff are no longer employed by Posti, but customer service is provided by the company in which Posti’s service point is located. This means that they also wear that company’s clothes.

For example, the S Group’s workwear includes a few outfits, such as two pairs of trousers, a couple of T-shirts and long-sleeved jerseys, a gilet and a fleece jacket. The employer pays for the clothes and also has them washed.

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