It is always going to be a problem recruiting young people for an
organisation with the traditions and trappings of the Salvation Army.
The announcement regarding the updating of the uniforms will probably do
more for the recruitment drive however than the change of uniform
If the objective of last week’s announcement was to generate national
press coverage around the charity and its ’hidden face’ then it was a
job well done. Substantial coverage in at least five national newspapers
- positive in the main - sent out clear messages (to those who got
beyond the headline) that the Salvation Army is more than a bunch of old
ladies in bonnets.
Who among us realised for instance that it is involved in international
disaster relief or in providing help for victims of domestic
Perhaps it should be concentrating on communicating these aspects of the
charity since it is surely the ’active’ side of the Salvation Army and a
wider understanding of its values and charity work that will draw in new
A new uniform? Not so sure. For most young people a uniform - whatever
it looks like - is a turn-off. Young people strive for independence and
finding their own style is an important part of this. Uniforms, whoever
they’re designed by, smack of the conformity and herd mentality that
they are trying to avoid.
However, I do have that sinking feeling that it’s not so much the
uniform but the people in it that is the problem for the Salvation Army.
Say what you like but even a pair of jeans, a sweatshirt and a baseball
cap suddenly becomes very unappealing to a teenager when it is being
worn by someone who looks uncannily like his granny.
I believe the way forward is evolution rather than revolution - yes,
bring the uniform up to date - but don’t try too hard. The uniform is an
important part of the Salvation Army’s heritage and it shouldn’t feel
pressurised into radical change.
But if it is serious about keeping pace and growing its ranks then more
focus on how it spends its money rather than how it dresses the people
who collect it might help the cause.