[Editor’s Note: Some of the photo links in the story may come up as “Access Denied” — or they may not. If they do, highlight the URL in your browser window’s address line (command-a), cut it to your clipboard (command-x), re-paste it right back into the browser window (command-v), and then hit enter. Should solve the problem. Annoying, I know, but it’s worth it. Apologies for any hassle. — PL]
A few years ago I wrote an article about for Fortune magazine about the history of the jet age. It included the following passage:
Since 1938, the federal Civil Aeronautics Board had controlled the industry’s routes, schedules, and prices, which were generally kept artificially high to protect the airlines. This left the carriers with little to compete over except whose flight attendants had the sexiest outfits (a trend begun in 1965 by Braniff, whose stewardesses would shed several layers of their uniforms during a flight, a routine known as the “air strip”).
I wasn’t able to work any other uni-centric comments into the article. And that didn’t seem like such a tragedy, because airline uniforms had always struck me as stiff polyester nightmares that were boring at best, tacky at worst.
This view is not shared by Cliff Muskiet, a Dutchman who works for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and is at least as obsessed with stewardess uniforms as I am with, say, striped stirrups. For years he’s been updating his web site (note the super-cool domain name — I may as well retire right now), which, as he straightforwardly explains, “is about me and my stewardess uniform collection.” That collection now includes over 600 uniforms drawn from nearly 300 airlines.
Clicking through Muskiet’s collection, it’s hard not to admire his hyper-obsessive tendencies. For each basic uniform design, he shows the uni on a mannequin and provides close-ups of fabrics, patterns, and badges (sometimes buttons and buckles, too). And just as I try to do with Uni Watch, he’s attempted to document some of the industry’s design history — check out, for example, this amazing page of old TWA uniforms, or some of the early-’70s American Airlines designs shown here.
Many of the stewardess uniforms fall into the same design categories as sports uniforms. You’ve got your classy simplicity (much like the Yankees), your characterless bores (Brewers), your occasional burst of slightly upscale perfection (Canadiens), your “What were they thinking?” disasters (Devil Rays), and plenty of other familiar tropes.
Such metaphorical connections notwithstanding, there’s also at least one design that’s directly sports-related: In 2006, Deutsche BA crews wore a special Puma-designed outfit, complete with logo creep, to help promote the World Cup (additional pics at the bottom of this page). And while not a sportswear design per se, the easyJet crew sure looks like they’re heading straight to the stadium (additional pics here).
It’d be easy to make fun of a guy like Muskiet — surrounded by his mannequins, fussing over his collection of dresses and skirts, providing grist for any number of Freudian mills. Ultimately, though, he isn’t all that different from you or me, obsessing over the visual details of his chosen field and enjoying the satisfaction that comes with collection and display. I prefer to see him as a fellow traveler (no pun intended).
Friendly Reminder: Paul’s on vacation. If you have questions, observations, or contributions, send them to Vince.
Uni Watch News Ticker: In a small item perfectly related to today’s post, the TSA has announced new uniforms for the TSO (thanks to J. Cutler)… Paul ‘enjoyed’ his vacation by sending me the following contributions: Coach Randy Shannon of the Miami Hurricanes has taken the names off the back of the jerseys this year to reinforce the ‘team-first’ approach… The new Duke football uniforms… The new North Texas football uniforms will be unveiled August 4th… An interesting Ebay auction… Why should new Met Ruben Gotay hope that he succeeds wearing the #6? Check the end of this article to find out (Once again, thanks to some guy named Paul for the contributions. Here’s to hoping he sticks around)…. In some corporate logo news, the Barclays eagle may be disappearing after 317 years thanks to concerns from its merger partner, ABN Amro (thanks to Matthew Hackethal)… The University of Michigan got a signing bonus for switching to Adidas, which may be the first time something like this has happened (mucho dinero thanks to Bill Tway)… Purple, purple, and more purple (a “don’t tell Paul you sent this” thanks to Matthew Strauss)… Mike Bonasai reports “The Greenville Drive honored neighboring city Spartanburg and Upstate South Carolina baseball history as playing as the Spartanburg Peaches. The Peaches jerseys were auctioned during the game to raise money for the Friends of Duncan Park, an organization out to save the oldest baseball stadium in South Carolina.”… Many, many people noticed that Glenallen Hill wore a helmet while coaching at first base for the Rockies after minor league coach Mike Coolbaugh died after getting hit by a ball this week (Bill Sour, who was at the game and sent me this pic)… Andrew Lupton found this patch showing the logo from the ’71/’72 Houston Rockets… Many, many people noticed that the Mariners were wearing their batting practice jerseys for the second part of a double-dip against the Rangers last night… Todd Davis noticed that Ubaldo Jimenez doesn’t know how to wear stirrups… Finally, the new Sharks logo is out.