Forced to pick a single company that would gauge the health of Corporate America, it would be easy to settle on Cintas (NASDAQ:CTAS). As the uniform supplier to 500,000 companies in all shapes and sizes (both the uniforms and the companies), how could you go wrong? If the economy is humming along and folks are hiring, up go the Cintas garb rentals. If times are tight and layoffs follow, well, Cintas won't need to launder some of those uniforms next month.

Yet consistency kicks this proxy to the curb. For 35 years, Cintas has produced higher sales and profits. Last night, the company wrapped up another record-breaking fiscal year by earning $1.58 a share on a 5% uptick in revenue.

It is looking to run that streak to 36, too, as the company is guiding investors to expect earnings per share to come in between $1.70 and $1.80. Revenue for fiscal 2005 should come in between $3.0 billion and $3.2 billion, an improvement over this past year's $2.8 billion sum.

But it hasn't been as easy as it seems. Until a potent June quarter closed up the fiscal year in well-dressed fashion, the company's top line was chugging ahead by just 3%. And you're fooling yourself if you don't think the company has had to navigate flawlessly to maintain its resiliency.

That has been largely the product of being the big dog, toiling away in a highly fragmented sector. Its nearest rival in uniform rentals, ARAMARK (NYSE:RMK), has also benefited from the trend. Between acquisitions and flexing its economies of scale to win over new accounts, Cintas may have been a steady beating drum financially, but it has taken great skill to get it right through the cyclical highs and lows.

If Cintas ultimately makes for a poor indicator on the job-growth scene, you can thank the company for that. Consistency is the product of many things -- none of them simple.

If you don't have to wear a uniform to work, do you relish or despise the daily clothing decision? Must you dress sharp to be sharp? All this and more in the What to Wear? discussion board. Only on

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz realizes that the word "cintas" is Spanish for "tapes." He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.