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Volume 91, Issue 18
Friday, September 26, 1997
From polyester to oxfords
PERHAPS YOU WOULD LIKE ONE OF OUR TOP-OF-THE-LINE PUMPS. Gas Jockey Paul Hutchison happily shows off the styling Petro Canada uniform helping the customers ride into the sunset.
By Cat Fleming
Hair nets, tight polyester pants, matching brown blouses and pinafores are all images which conjure up despair. They are images of the uniforms most associated with the service industry. If you have never personally endured wrong-sizing, second-hand sweat and being smothered in grease, your parents may accuse you of not knowing the value of a buck.
During the 1970s polyester was considered to be highly fashionable, inexpensive and, of course, flammable. Although student job descriptions and wages may have remained static over the past decade, uniform fashion has appreciably evolved from embarrassing to surprisingly wearable.
District manager of Wendy's Restaurants, Nancy Mooney, reminisces about having to wear a "white polyester pant suit with a styling sleeveless blue bib and petite matching blue and white scarves" during the 1970s. When asked if there is any evidence of her white burger-flipping suit, Mooney said she believes the "photographs might have been misplaced."
In the 1980s, Wendy's followed the preppy trend by donning Oxford pinstripe shirts with button-down collars that prevented employees from grossly altering their uniforms to the fashion standard of flipping their collars up.
"Wendy's encourages a positive atmosphere within the corporation by holding employee rap sessions," Mooney says. These sessions contributed towards their latest uniform design which shall be making its grand debut in a couple of weeks. Over the past 22 years, Wendy's has changed their uniform six times, she adds.
The latest style not only offers employees the chance to wear Dockers style pants, but actually gives them a choice of four different styles of shirts. With changes in styles and attitudes, colours such as burgundy and orange have been replaced by more subtle and traditional shades navy blue and red being the most popular.
"French seams, double pleats, looser 'Euro' look," Marilyn Brooks of Marilyn Brooks Uniform Design in Toronto describes, adding these are just some of the qualities to consider when designing uniforms. "Workers need to feel comfortable and clothes have got to last," Brooks says.
While riding with truckers she discovered that a "bigger tummy needs a belt to hold up pants." In turn, Brooks created the Trucker's Loop, a two-inch-wide belt loop directly in the back of their pants.
Private industries are not the only companies which have realized the need for a style overhaul. Earlene Freel of Uniforms Unlimited in London specializes in hospital uniforms. Although Freel sells between 60 to 70 per cent traditional scrubs, which is a basic straight pant and V-neck shirt, the other 30 to 40 per cent of sales incorporate designer hospital wear by Simon Chang.
Chang designs polyester/cotton blend pant suits, culottes and dresses in a variety of materials, patterns and styles at designer prices ranging from $70-130. However, he does compensate his consumers for high prices by including a freebie with select model matching fake gold earrings.
Uniforms have been around since the 1800s and will be around for at least another lifetime. Employers now more hip with the times have replaced the 'fear factor' with 100 per cent cotton ultra-modern uniforms. Decent uniforms may only be a minor detail in the makeup of a mega corporation but to the students, who have to wear them, it makes a shift less awkward and the bus ride to work just a little easier.
Graphic by Janice Olynich
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Copyright © The Gazette 1997