Back in April, McDonald’s debuted new uniforms for employees. Critics were quick to pounce on the dour gray garb, cracking jokes about its (hopefully) unintentional similarity to sci-fi villainy and dreary dystopian duds. One Twitter user quipped: “Do the new #McDonalds uniforms remind you of #StarWars Imperial officers? ‘I find your lack of fries disturbing.’ ” Another claimed the purveyor of Happy Meals and gut-busting burgers was ironically ripping off Hunger Games costume design. Clearly, the Twitterati were not lovin’ it.
The misstep got us curious about what makes a uniform iconic and how to update employee apparel without straying too far from a company’s core branding. We turned to expert Taraynn Lloyd, marketing director of Edwards Garment (asi/51572), for help. The key to creating a stand-out uniform, she says, is to look at the “important pieces” of your brand and incorporate those colors and styles into apparel in a way that remains consistent and familiar, year after year. Though Lloyd liked the sleekness of McDonald’s new uniforms, she found the updated color palette somewhat lacking. “They are the Golden Arches,” she notes. “That’s the brand. If they eliminated gold completely [from a uniform], that would really be a huge, huge mistake.”
Southwest Airlines debuted new uniforms for the first time in 20 years.
When it comes to designing a uniform program, Lloyd says it’s crucial to marry branding and aesthetics with comfort and utility. “You really need to understand all of the activities of the employees,” she adds. “Then you can start creating styles and looking at fabrics that will help the employees do their job and be comfortable doing it.” If you can involve workers in the design and testing process, as Southwest Airlines did in its recent uniform update, even better.
The nice thing about corporate apparel these days, Lloyd says, is the abundance of choice in styles, fabrics and fabric treatments. “It’s so different from 30 years ago where you would get a basic shirt with a pocket and a pair of pants,” she says.
Watch the livestream below to hear more of Lloyd’s insights and find out which brand we honor as having the most iconic uniform. Spoiler alert: The brand once sponsored a Kentucky Derby winner named in its honor.