Uniform Trend Growing Industry: 1 in 4 Employees Wear Special Attire When on the Job

By Comerford, Mike | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), July 15, 2005 | Go to article overview

Uniform Trend Growing Industry: 1 in 4 Employees Wear Special Attire When on the Job


Comerford, Mike, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Mike Comerford Daily Herald Business Writer

Rick Levine of Highland Park remembers as a teenager working for a Long John Silver's restaurant and wearing a pirate's hat and fake gold earring.

Jeff Green, now a spokesman for United Airlines, remembers wearing a costume-style uniform at Epcot at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

"It was a space 'cadet-ish' sort of thing and too hot for Florida," Green said.

Long John Silver's ditched the pirate costumes long ago, but what many consider garish uniforms live on in places like Hooters restaurants.

The uniform industry serves a wide spectrum from comical to formal to hip-hop cool, which some observers suggest Oak Brook- based McDonald's Corp. seeks with its latest uniform redesigns in the works.

"Just take a look around you someday and you won't believe how many people are wearing uniforms," said Levine, editor and publisher of Made To Measure magazine, a trade publication produced in Highland Park for the industry.

Levine estimates that nearly one in four U.S. workers wear some sort of uniform. Although not growing fast as a percentage of the work force, Levine said, the number of uniformed workers continues to expand with the work force ranks.

Among the most heavily uniformed local workplaces are O'Hare International Airport, Six Flags Great America and the riverboat casinos. That's in addition to government workplaces such as Great Lakes Naval Station and fire and police departments.

O'Hare officials estimate a majority of the 45,000 badge- carrying workers at the airport sport uniforms, from pilots to food concessionaires.

In Gurnee, most of Great America's 3,000 summer employees wear logos, badges or, in the case of the Hurricane Harbor water park, uniform red swim wear.

Workplaces opt for uniforms for reasons including branding, recruitment, morale and security, Levine said. But branding remains a top consideration.

Concerned about uniform branding in its 300 Chicago area branches, Bank One switched to a uniform dress code in the summer of 2003. A year later, JP Morgan Chase & Co. bought the area's largest bank. Logos on polo shirts will change again in the fall. …

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