Men’s Sheds and male identity

Red BikesApparently there’s a higher than average incidence of depression in retired posties. I can’t find the research but you can see why this might be true. They have a physically active job, they’re well connected in the community, have unusual working hours and  wear uniforms associated with their valuable, but increasingly threatened, role.

When all that’s gone – what’s left?

Of course posties are not alone in being in danger of drifting when cut loose (by redundancy or retirement) from structures, routines, and the status often associated with paid employment.

Any yes, the uniform – even a suit or a high-viz jacket – can be incredibly important in confirming identity and self-worth, boosting self-confidence.

Which is increasingly understood by the burgeoning network of Men’s Sheds around the UK which offer a half way station between workplace and home.

In Australia – the home of the global Men’s Sheds movement – they found that workers from the emergency services and the armed forces were particularly vulnerable after losing their uniforms (alongside many other, more traumatic, experiences no doubt).

In the not-for-private-profit world of charities and social enterprises there tends to be much less adherence to the idea of hierarchy and uniforms (the Scouts and Guides being honourable exceptions). That said, there are still pay differentials and efforts to foster a corporate identify in most organisations – which may or may not include a dress code.

Closer to the grassroots where organisations, including Men’s Sheds, are largely volunteer-led and run, it’s important to recognise that people giving up their time for free need to feel valued and useful, and able to identify with a worthwhile cause. In fact, because volunteers can simply walk away, it’s essential to get this right.

Meanwhile, at The Repair Shed in Hemel Hempstead, we’re just about to order some branded fleeces for our members. This is primarily about keeping bodies warm and reducing wear and tear on other clothes, but it will be interesting to see if the new uniformity adds anything to our collective sense of belonging and self-esteem.

For more about UK Men’s Sheds go to www.UKMSA.org.uk and The Repair Shed is at www.communityactiondacorum.org/the-repair-shed

Of related interest…

Men’s Sheds and lifelong learning https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/mens-sheds-and-lifelong-learning Men’s Sheds and enterprise  https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/mens-sheds-and-bird-boxes

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