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High Vis Gear – A brand that conditions us to ‘see’ and stereotype Back

A while back I started thinking about High Visibility gear as a brand – not a named brand but a brand in itself. I started thinking about this after a conversation with a good friend who is a project manager on commercial building sites. He had said that on more than one occasion he’d been ignored by people he knew, when wearing his High Vis gear – they didn’t ‘see him’ even when he was standing right next to them.

It made me realise that over the years more and more people have been required to don High Vis gear to keep them safe – in turn we have learnt to look out for and be aware of those wearing High Vis gear – be it on the road, on building sites, at airports, on bikes, up power poles, in disaster zones, on mountains. ‘They’ are everywhere. We have been taught to look out for them – however in doing so we have forgotten to ‘see them’ as individuals – they have become just another object to avoid at all costs in our daily lives. But they are people – people with lives, loved ones, hopes and dreams just like the rest of us.

This Snickers ad reminded me I should write this post. It is both entertaining but also controversial and begins with this statement ‘What Happens when workers aren’t themselves’. It would be nice to think most people on building sites actually think as they are portrayed in the ad – even though stereotypes and perhaps now High Vis gear may encourage us to think otherwise. (It is interesting to note that the most represented group in Mensa are labourers.)

So next time you see someone in High Vis gear – think – am I seeing them as an object or a person? They’re not a bunch of road cones…


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