Uniformity

by James Wysong on June 27, 2006

The comedian Dennis Miller once said, “If you are at work and wearing a name tag, then somewhere along the line, you probably made a serious error in career choices.” When I heard this remark, I was at the airport, and not only was I wearing a name tag, I was wearing a tie that matched the curtains in the aircraft.

I looked back on my life and found I couldn’t remember a job that didn’t come with a name badge of some kind. Even when I was in a jazz band, our shirts and jackets had our names embroidered on the chest. According to Dennis Miller, my whole life had been a series of career choice errors. I quickly removed the name tag and never wore it again. That’ll show him.

Flight attendants are known as the “polyester people.” While different airlines have different uniforms, there are many similarities — such as luminescent ties and scarves, vests and serving jackets. Of course, some have it better than others. For example, when I am wearing a three-piece polyester suit in summer, the humidity makes the fabric feel like it is melting onto my skin. Then, at the pinnacle of my sweltering misery, a flight attendant from a “no-frills” airline will walk by in shorts, tennis shoes and a casual shirt, as cool as can be.

“How unprofessional,” I mumble under my breath. Do you hear a faint rumble of envy? Of course you do. What I wouldn’t give to be able to wear casual attire on an airplane! To add insult to injury, I have to put on an apron when I start the food service! But at least the food service is dignified (when there is a food service, that is). If the no-frills trend toward entertaining service continues, flight attendants may soon be required to wear a costume and perform in the aisles.

Pilots continue to wear their military-looking uniforms with epaulets and caps resembling those worn by sky porters. Clearly, airline uniform designers haven’t quite grasped the idea of women in aviation yet. When I see female pilots in uniform, they often look awkward and like little boys to me (my wife excluded, of course). Granted, some do look like men in real life, but that’s a different subject.

Some flight attendants wear items they’re not supposed to wear, or complain about their uniform or plead for apparel improvements. To me, it’s just a uniform. In my lifetime, I’ve worn uniforms resembling everything from a tree to an animal. You may not like what you wear to work, but it could always be worse — except, maybe, for those people at the shopping malls wearing those ridiculous hot dog hats.

According to most airlines’ in-flight regulations, flight attendants cannot have visible tattoos, excessive jewelry or abnormal body piercings, and they must adhere to the uniform guidelines. My airline’s uniform code clearly states that all flight attendants must wear proper undergarments at all times, including bras and panties. While this may delight some other male flight attendants, please don’t make me do it. I promise to put the name tag back on!

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