April 22, 2017

The problem with mocking McDonald's "soul-crushing uniforms for our modern dystopia."

AV Club is snarking about the new gray-on-gray outfits:
The new looks will be distributed to all 14,000 of its U.S. locations beginning this month, their total elimination of distracting colors facilitating the orderly consumption of beef discs and potato sticks by an estimated factor of 40 percent, under the watchful eye of Commander McCheese.

Still, lest you think their monochromatic drabness somehow runs counter to the notion of that all-important individuality, McDonald’s points out that its uniforms also include a denim apron that “may be worn full or as a half apron to fit restaurant employees’ personal style.” Personally, I don’t know that I would trust some insouciant, half-apron rebel to hand me a Serenity Meal. But leaving that up to the manager’s discretion is what makes McDonald’s the industry leader in acknowledging that free will has not yet been totally eradicated.
And I'm seeing this at Gizmodo (with photos):
To me, [the new uniforms] invoke a very Logan’s Run future. But mandatory gray-on-gray with a dash of black is pretty much universally recognized as the standard uniform for bleakest of futures... Or, if you prefer, maybe it’s a bit more Hunger Games... Or if you want something even more recent, how about Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale?
Here's my problem. They are not thinking from the perspective of the the people who work at McDonald's. They're talking about how they feel as customers who are used to seeing McDonald's workers in garish colors that scream I work at McDonald's. I think it's obvious from the company's press release that they are trying to be more respectful to the employees, who feel conspicuous or embarrassed when traveling to and from work and who want to blend in with other people who work at other kinds of jobs. The respect — expressed through restrained gray-on-gray uniforms — is not soul-crushing except in the mind of the people who are not wearing those uniforms.

AV Club surrounds quotes from the press release with efforts at humor that in fact reveal its I don't work at McDonald's snobbery:
“Individuality is important to McDonald’s restaurant employees,” McDonald’s says in a press release, charitably recognizing that many of its workers are separate entities from their stations, some even boasting identities and interests that go well beyond operating deep fryers. As such, the company partnered with designer Waraire Boswell to create these fun, flirty, uniquely gray-on-gray uniforms that can provide an “easy transition from the restaurant to a social environment,” where they may engage with their fellow civilians in more casual discussions of deep-frying techniques.
It's AV Club that is failing to see the humanity of the employees. The phrase "easy transition from the restaurant to a social environment" implies that the company knew that the garish orange uniforms made it difficult for employees as they commuted to and from work, perhaps picking up and dropping off their children or doing errands or wanting to do things with friends before getting home and changing into street clothes. The new uniforms are more like ordinary clothes and they make it possible for restaurant workers to blend in with other people. That only translates to "soul-crushing" to people who feel sure they won't have to work in a fast-food restaurant.

The new gray-on-gray uniforms are actually sensitive to the well-being of McDonald's employees.
 
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92 comments:

Paul Zrimsek said...

* Neither agree nor disagree. It all depends on how many pieces of flair they're required to wear along with.

Scott said...

In any kind of visual design, gray is actually one of the coolest colors to work with. Any color in a Munsell Gray context just pops; and you can go lighter or darker without losing the message you're trying to communicate.

If your uniform is gray, what is your attention drawn to? The people in the uniforms, and the food they serve. Brilliant.

Browndog said...

The new uniforms are more like ordinary clothes and they make it possible for restaurant workers to blend in with other people.

If everything is a uniform, nothing is.

Uniforms are dead. Long live Uniforms.

Bob R said...

My first non-farm job was a Gino's/KFC. Not a good look if you stop off at a bar after the night shift (back in the days of 18yo drinking age.)

BTW, I answered "agree," but I didn't read closely. I really doubt that the uniforms are sensitive.

RNB said...

Redesigning the uniforms is a useful distraction for corporate leaders who need a way to avoid dwelling on their company's larger problems. For instance, a major airline is in the process of redesigning its uniforms for both flight and ground personnel, in partnership with a prominent New York designer. This has resulted in mechanics being (shortly) clothed in a purplish color proudly referred to as 'Passport Plum.'

tim in vermont said...

Next step is to send "community organizers" into all of the McDonalds to explain to the workers there why their soul would have been elevated, had McDonalds only forced them to wear uniforms resembling, for example, the Pittsburgh Steelers throwback unies. Right after they get back from the trailer parks, were the mission was to explain why they should resent other people trying to live as cheaply as they do, and that following their mission to explain to the working poor why they should hate Walmart from bringing them affordable shopping!

BTW, WTF is it with Safari thinking it knows what words I really mean to type, and stealth slipping them in?

cyrus83 said...

These don't look all that bad, but honestly solid black with a restrained accent is a better color scheme if the goal is to blend in with a more professional look. I really don't see this shade of gray in use much.

Black also has the advantage that it hides grease/food stains better than a gray will.

Fernandinande said...

McTopia.

Angel-Dyne said...

"I have worn a bright-colored fast-food restaurant uniform and I agree."

These are the least humiliating fast-food worker uniforms I've ever seen.

Scott said...

"Black also has the advantage that it hides grease/food stains better than a gray will."

I respectfully disagree. I have a black cotton sweater that seems to reveal every little particle of dust or food spatter. But it would look nice if I could keep it perfectly clean, which I can't.

3rdGradePB_GoodPerson said...

I'm w/ Althouse, they just want the employees to feel better, until they're replace w/ robots.

Plus, this drab attire gets customers thinking less about these folks, they won't even notice when one day gray grabbed humans are replaced by computers.

Win-win.


"Man, my woman done left me
Damn
I got laid off
Shit
They say a computer can do my job better then I can damn do it"

David Begley said...

Althouse nails it. I would add that this is the work of the new CEO. He has really increased profits at McDonald's with all-day breakfast leading the way. Big turnaround.

Chris N said...

Maybe the people working as interns/low paid joke writers are sensitive to having no status.

My pet theory: These jokes are likely written by girls/women. For a while there was a guys club, then one or two braver, funny woman (Althouse types, 10/9 to 1) at The Onion.

If the ratio continues towards parity, the guys start putting the governor on. The dynamic changes until a tipping point is reached (5/4 to 1) and the guys pretty much form a new club elsewhere in office or start a new business.

All along, a few people (often the least talented) keep enforcing the radical, 'anti' logic that got the first woman in the door. They can't succeed so they have to be right about something. Women, being more sensitive creatures, on average, also take fewer risks and look to include everyone and bend to current trends/movements.

One unfairness 'joke/men are dicks' joke follows another until it's social justice bullshit and a complainfest all day long. The business folds unless good leadership is found.

No one is really happy with things but most people have someone to blame.

Maybe I'm wrong.

William said...

This is a humane and decent observation......I've worked at a fast food restaurant. The only thing worse than working at such a job is being unemployed and in desperate need of money.

traditionalguy said...

The 70+ workers like them better too. Sort of like Star Trek uniforms.

Bay Area Guy said...

Ugly, monochromatic, sexually ambiguous, unattractive uniforms. I don't shop there, but now I will feel even better about not shopping there.

Bill Peschel said...

It looked good on the Death Star, I can't imagine why it wouldn't in McDonald's.

(Note: I haven't seen the uniforms, but that was the first thing I thought when I heard grey-on-grey. Nazis came second, but as an old board wargamer, I'm the first to admit they had cooler uniforms than the U.S. Army. Hugo Boss, you know.)

As for what's humane for the worker, I have no opinion, but I'd rather hear from the workers themselves rather than anyone from The Onion A.V. In fact, all you had to say was "Onion A.V." and I could probably have written the article for them.

tcrosse said...

Maybe they could do a 50 Shades of Grey tie-in. Imagine the toys they could put in the Happy Meal !

Chris N said...

Humor, especially, is about taking risks, and saying things no one else will say. Relatively fewer women are up to that (and I suspect, no, not just because of nurture either)

Also, in groups of guys...fart jokes, really physical comedy, misanthropy, laughing at tragedy, genuine misogyny are not usually a draw for a female or even mixed 'respectable' audiences

Howard Stern, Andrew Dice Clay, Sam Kinison types are in the transgression mold, and thats what can happen in a group of guys pretty easily.

Michael K said...

the work of the new CEO. He has really increased profits at McDonald's with all-day breakfast leading the way. Big turnaround.

I don't follow this stuff but I had been hearing that McD was in trouble because of the menu changes and the franchise owners were up in arms about cost being up and profits down. I had read that the changes were not working.

Has that changed ? Sounds like it.

Chris N said...

Also, awesome uniforms. They will suffice until the robots serve McDonald's bites at Midnight kiosks

heyboom said...

At least they don't work at Hot Dog on a Stick. Those have to be the most humiliating uniforms ever.

heyboom said...

Has that changed ? Sounds like it.

The changes have been pretty effective, but I think location has a lot to do with how well a McDonald's franchise does. Here in my area, there are three and they are packed around the clock.

Birches said...

I prefer Wendy's, but all the McDonald's hate is tiresome.

John said...

Li worked in fastfood in the 60smcd, hardees, hot shoppes and others but uniforms were white.

Do workers travrl in uniforms? I always thought that they changed coming to and leaving work.

That's one of the points of uniforms. Keeping outside dirt outside.

John Henry

JW Moore said...

Who cares - they'll all be replaced by kiosks anyway.

John said...

Re the colors: they do give a more upscale look.

I might be able to forget I am in mcd and dream i am in momo's or le cirque.

John Henry

Michael K said...

As long as Hooters doesn't change theirs.

Rae said...

Grey lives matter.

Rae said...

Include a hoodie, and they look like Black Bloc or Antifa.

Freeman Hunt said...

They usually wear black shirts here. They look great.

David said...

Liberalism is a fashion statement.

J2 said...

This reminds me of the scene in" Fast Times at Ridgemont High" when Judge Reinhold
flirts with a girl in a convertible - but then realizes she's laughing at his Captain Hook's Fish and Chips pirate uniform.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vS7bpVsNQ9M

Rusty said...

5
I don't give a shit.

Yancey Ward said...

I have always thought it would be cool if all the employees were dressed up in clown makeup.

Yancey Ward said...

J2,

LOL! As I was reading the post, I was thinking about that scene, too. He even tried to change clothes before making the delivery, but his manager forced him to go as is.

Inga said...

Look on the bright bright side, the new uniforms will make the food more colorful and appetizing in appearance.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

If the fast food workers' uniforms are garish and humiliating to wear in public, why don't they dress normally and then change into and out of their uniforms at work. I know that the cheap ass corporate and franchise owners probably don't want to go to the expense of having lockers and a changing room.

But...if it is that bad, I would bring my uniform and change. How hard is that?

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

heyboom said...
At least they don't work at Hot Dog on a Stick. Those have to be the most humiliating uniforms ever.

Holy crap! That's a real place! What's their motto, "Carnival Food Without the Carneys"?

Henry said...

The shirts are pretty nice. The aprons with the gray bands do seem kind Logans Run.

Roy Lofquist said...

I want my pixels back.

exiledonmainstreet said...

"I know that the cheap ass corporate and franchise owners probably don't want to go to the expense of having lockers and a changing room."

My best friend in high school worked at an Arbys and they had lockers - where else could employees park their purses and school backpacks during working hours? They changed in the bathrooms. Of course that's when these places were largely staffed by teens working PT. There was no stigma attached to working there because we all had similar low wage jobs. ( I worked in a diner and didn't have a uniform, just a long apron. I would have liked one because it seemed like the grease spatters always ended up where the apron was not, wrecking many a T-shirt.)

The biggest complaint my friends who worked at fast food places had about the uniforms was not their ugliness (that was a given), but that in the 70's they were all made of polyester which didn't absorb any sweat and consequently they got very uncomfortable.

buwaya said...

Its odd that these fellows havent ragged on UPS drivers uniforms. They are brownshirts serving a semi-fascist, semi-monopolistic entity within a motorised army. Its not Logans run, it may be worse.

buwaya said...

Black shirts and khaki pants may be even better. A little fasces emblem to foster team spirit would add a nice touch.

But that, even today, may attract unfortunate comments.

My personal favorite would be blue shirts (yeah, yeah, bland)
with a cross of Burgundy patch. Striking.

The Cracker Emcee said...

UPS drivers make hella dollahs for what they do. It's the poor bastards at DHL that I feel sorry for. Imagine being forced to dress like Ronald McDonald.

The Cracker Emcee said...

No wonder it took them 6 weeks to get my shoes from Germany to me. Too much clowning around.

The Cracker Emcee said...

Just actually looked at the new McD's uniforms. Really they're quite nice and a huge improvement over the old ones. I imagine it will be a popular change with the employees.
In the early '80's I worked with a woman who had an unfortunate affinity for a dark brown polyester top she owned. While engaged in a pissing match with a younger male co-worker, he snarked, "Why don't you go work at Burger King and get the rest of the uniform?" Brutal, but still funny 30 years on.

Matthew Sablan said...

My parents both worked at McDonalds when I was growing up; I hope people don't look down on fast food workers.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The biggest complaint my friends who worked at fast food places had about the uniforms was not their ugliness (that was a given), but that in the 70's they were all made of polyester which didn't absorb any sweat and consequently they got very uncomfortable.

@ exiled

Oh man. Polyester. That was the worst on a hot day in a hot environment like a restaurant. No wonder everyone was cranky. My teen summer jobs were in the orchards of the Santa Clara Valley. Hot but we could dress in shorts and t-shirts and get into the shade and once in a while there might be a breeze. I think I made about 1$ an hour. Woo hoo!!!!

tim in vermont said...

I stop there only when I am out of either eggs or English muffins. Their breakfast sandwiches are pretty good, but remarkably easy to make at home.

tim in vermont said...

It takes less time to make a McMuffin using the microwave for the egg, than it would to pull into a drive through and get one.

Static Ping said...

The problem with the old uniforms was not as much as they were garish as they were a sign that the employee worked at McDonald's. People like making fun of people in low status positions. I'm not saying its right - I believe any sort of legal work is honorable and should be encouraged - but that's the reality of it. They are called McJobs with a healthy dose of disdain for a reason. If these uniforms had been for a higher status job, the AV Club wouldn't have cared.

What's going to happen is after a month or two everyone is going to recognize the gray-on-gray as McDonald's and the euphemism treadmill will have its inevitable revenge on the fashion catwalk. It's like the guy from the Special Olympics who is so desperate for people to stop using the word "moron" because it is insulting to the mentally retarded, despite the fact that everyone beyond language historians have long since forgotten that "moron" was a medical term at one point and not a generic insult to be applied to anyone regardless of intelligence. YOU ARE TRYING TOO HARD!

Paco Wové said...

"they were all made of polyester which didn't absorb any sweat and consequently they got very uncomfortable"

Oh, yes. <shudder>

ALP said...

I worked at Burger King in the late 1970s early 1980s when the awful, scratchy polyester uniforms were YELLOW and RED in a clown like pattern. Truly miserable workwear - plus a stupid hat. The colors looked hideous on me, as I am firmly in the "winter" color category. Clown-like is the only way to describe it: wide colorful bands, red bell bottom pants, stupid had.

I would have been thrilled with these mellow gray and black outfits. These authors don't know SHIT when it comes to miserable work wear. From the articles quoted, I was expecting a military look but these strike me as sports wear and very similar to what one would buy to promote one's football team (sans the color).

Zach said...

There's an old Chapelle's Show skit making fun of the old uniforms:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFkmKPQpZh4

exiledonmainstreet said...

Matthew Sablan said...
My parents both worked at McDonalds when I was growing up; I hope people don't look down on fast food workers.

4/22/17, 1:00 PM

I don't look down on anybody doing honest work.

This has nothing to do with uniforms, but when I was in Colorado a few months ago, the maid showed up to clean my room when I was still there and I got into a conversation with her. (She was quite chatty and wanted to make sure I knew she was not an illegal, but a brand new American and very proud of her citizenship. She was a Bahai who had been persecuted for her religion in Iran. I didn't realize there were Bahais in Iran until I met her.) She told me she was happy because she was transferring to work in the hotel kitchen. I said, "But won't you miss the tips?" I always leave tips for hotel maids but she told me very few people do.

That really surprised me. People tip a bartender for pouring a beer for them but don't tip the person who cleans the toilet and makes the bed?

Zach said...

Fast Times at Ridgemont High, too:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1HqjBc6LhA

(Notice the contrast between the "single, successful guy" and the customer's gray(!) suit and the silly costumes of Reinhold and his supervisor.)

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Jim Gust said...

When I worked at Baskin Robbins I had to change into my uniform at the store, I didn't get to take it home with me. Which was good, because that also left the laundering responsibility with my employer.

richard mcenroe said...

Look for the edgy Sundance film entry, The Person of Unspecified Gender In the Gray Polyester Suit...

Alex said...

Honestly my first thought seeing these uniforms is Battlestar Galactica after the Cylons nuked everything. What was wrong with the previous red & yellow uniforms? Those were fun and part of the traditional image. Why must everything be homogenized into fucking grey and black?

Alex said...

Still it's nice to be in a profession where I can where whatever the fuck I want to. Uniforms are for slaves.

exiledonmainstreet said...

"Uniforms are for slaves."

Clayton Kershaw wears a uniform.

"Clayton Kershaw signed a 7 year / $215,000,000 contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, including a $18,000,000 signing bonus, $215,000,000 guaranteed, and an annual average salary of $30,714,286. In 2016, Kershaw will earn a base salary of $32,000,000. Kershaw has a cap hit of $34,571,428."

Not bad for a slave, huh, Alex?

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

It looks like only 30% of Althouse commentators worked a fast food job sometime in their life. That seems really low to me. You guys must be really privileged.

I should probably dress better when I come to this joint.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Yeah Bill. Looking at your avatar, at least put on some pants, please.

I worked in the orchards along with the migrant braceros. You can slum with me.

Michael K said...

I worked a lot of fairly menial jobs but the first time in a uniform was basic training.

They even gave us a free haircut.

walter said...

When I was in high school and one year after, I worked there. The uniforms weren't garish..dark Navy..kinda smart looking...the worst part was the disposable hat.
These Uniforms will probably have a high "dumpy" quotient when worn by many of the folks I see working there here in the non-"Fab" Midwest.

walter said...

(Go to that link to see what I mean..different versions of the unis)

ALP said...

It looks like only 30% of Althouse commentators worked a fast food job sometime in their life. That seems really low to me. You guys must be really privileged.
**************

LOL! I consider myself privileged yet I did fast food work, my younger sister topped me by doing fast food AND picking fruit (raspberries).

People may be privileged and that status was hard won by never turning down any kind of work.

AllenS said...

I worked on a 4 color web offset press. Never worked in fast food. On the afternoon shift on Friday (3 pm to 11 pm) in the press room, we had clean up, until the midnight shift started on Sunday 11:00 pm. Dirty filthy press clean up work. When they gave us work uniforms that were cleaned by an outside company, we were happy to not have to put our dirty clothes through our washing machines.

Winning!

If you've never had a job where you got dirty, you'll never understand.

exiledonmainstreet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
exiledonmainstreet said...

Blogger exiledonmainstreet said...
Bill, Republic of Texas said...
It looks like only 30% of Althouse commentators worked a fast food job sometime in their life. That seems really low to me. You guys must be really privileged."

I didn't work in fast food, but a diner comes pretty close. My other jobs as a teenager/college student included working in a hospital kitchen and in the college cafeteria. I was really happy to get away from working in or near kitchens to make a few bucks.

walter said...

AllenS said...If you've never had a job where you got dirty, you'll never understand.
--
Or smelly jobs. When McD's was all grill (no microwaving), it was pretty much impossible to fully rid one's fingertips of the burger smell.

AllenS said...

dirty/smelly = same same

JML said...

I wore a uniform like this when I worked at a McDonald's in HS and College:

http://www.ebay.ca/itm/1976-Original-McDonalds-Mens-Uniform-Large-Shirt-Crest-Company-/262912916215?hash=item3d36d4baf7:g:VwMAAOSwBahU~Psy

It was a great motivator to become a swing manager.

McDonald's was a good place to work - it taught me the basics of good management and leadership.

And I met a lot of girls.

Allen S: I had saved a (management) shirt. My wife burned it shortly after we got married.

walter said...

Well JML, with that getup you had excellent cross-walk visibility if you walked to work ;)

exiledonmainstreet said...

AllenS: Mike Rowe of "Dirty Jobs" said Trump was the candidate of the people who take their showers after work.

JML said...

Walter: Indeed.

Gahrie said...

I worked fast food and picked fruits and vegetables in the fields....

JTR said...

I worked two summers at indy fast food places. Uniforms easily were the worst part of the job. First year was typically orange & brown itchy fabric weird uniform - MISERY, second year was navy/red nautical theme with normal pants, top siders, and a striped polo. BETTER. But you're never going to make them okay. I see what they thought they were doing. Apple-Storing it up a bit, but regular "casual" works best. Whatever the equivalent of khakis is today - a nice track suit would work even better.

walter said...

Getting a McD's uniform felt like a step up after corn de-tassling..

Bill Reeves said...

McDonald's was the hardest job I ever had. If everyone started there there would be far less whining. Unlike modern college it was great training for life.And life teaches us that uniform colors are irrelevant.

Ken B said...

What kind of fuck-wit could disagree? Even the damned snarky writer concedes as much with the snark about being able to discuss the techniques of deep frying. This snark only works if you think McD employees really have nothing worthwhile to converse with others about, so the uniform really is not an obstacle. Yet 10% of the poll takers disagree. Fuck-wits all.

Unknown said...

I worked at McDonald's, oh, about 20 years ago now. It was a crappy job, but it was also an incredibly good thing I did it for a couple years. Everyone should work a job like that. Clearly, the good folks at AV Club and elsewhere never did.

Vesparado said...

During the period of my life when I worked regularly in food prep I did not get to wear a brightly covered uniform. The uniform I wore was OD, which at the time seemed quite appropriate (In fact, I "magic markered" over certain brightly colored patches that went with it and taped over the brass belt buckle that was part of the issue). I thought it was fine.

Inkling said...

The real reason for gray uniforms? Probably because they hide grease and dirt well and thuse don't have to be washed as often.

Michael said...

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with any uniform especially for new entrants into the workforce. A simple discipline that is built upon by rules. Showing up on time, following procedures and so on. Wearing a uniform does not make one a slave but frees one. Humility is won more easily.

Don said...

If a topic could ever be over analyzed, here it is. Old uniforms vs. new, meh.

gadfly said...

Waaay back in the days of old, I worked as a car-hop at an original KFC owned by the Colonel. I was told to wear a white shirt and I was handed a KFC ball cap. So I have no place to vote since uniforms were for sports teams. In gym class we played shirts and skins - but no mixed classes, damn it.

Sam L. said...

traditionalguy said...

The 70+ workers like them better too. Sort of like Star Trek uniforms.

Star Trek uniforms were my first thought, too.
No RED SHIRTS here.

Gregg G. Brown said...

With more, and older, Americans stick for years in these low-wage "starter" jobs, it looks like ZmcDonalds is trying to give their outfits done corporate-looking dignity. Not a bad idea.

MB said...

I'd call this color Dickensian (orphan) grey. It evokes sadness, but not hopelessness. Wearing it reminds one of one's place in the world and is useful in establishing and maintaining class distinctions.
That being said, it is still about the nicest fast-food uniform I have ever seen.