Uniform, why does it mean so much to us? I wanted to write this article after a conversation I had with my other half two nights ago, about how we as a culture perceive the symbol of a uniform. It’s an integral part of each and everyone of our lives, even if we don’t notice it.
It’s a brand, such as Virgin airlines famous red rouge and heels. Lufthansa are the first airline to introduce the sneaker as a part of their branded uniform. Boy, I wish they had implemented that in my airline during my trolley dolly years! It may look glamorous, but what I would of given for a pair of sneakers on a 13-hour busy Bangkok day flight! The point is uniform is a status, a symbol and safety beam for anyone in or around it. We don’t want to walk onto a plane and see the three 747 pilots sat in there boxers and t-shirts in the cockpit on a long haul flight to San Fran! Though from an ex-hostie point of view, it certainly may have given us a giggle, and hey, who knows what those guys take on or off between me bringing them their three meals and white nun (aviation slang for tea, white , no sugar)! I can joke about my fellow pilot brothers and sisters as my partner was a captain, and I still make him his three meals and white nun out of cockpit these days.
As a hostie, I was in full hat and heels as I glided down Heathrow, and you notice it as the heads turn, or the wolf makes his whistle. As a woman, I could say what is it that makes us so attractive in a trolly dolly uniform? But then what is it that makes pilots so attractive in theirs, a fireman in his or a policeman twirling his handcuffs as he leans against his cop-mobile! As a society we can’t deny that fact that the majority of us, at first glance, find at least some of these uniforms attractive, it’s undeniable. We even go to the extreme of having dating sites specifically tailored to finding the supposed loves of our lives in uniform! You can’t brand people more than picking suitors based on their attractiveness in uniform. We’ve all done it. Sat in a coffee shop and a man in a suit and shades walks in, you turn your head without even realising your judging that person to be successful or have wealth, even business minded. Little do we know that man could be facing his first job interview in years, maybe borrowed that suit from a friend, or is just coming from a family wedding. But as a society we judge, we judge all the time. How many times have you met someone and thought “you seem really cocky” or you think “I’m not going to get on with you,” when in fact after actually getting to know that person they are completely different to their first impression.
Yet in a uniform, first impression is everything. You see a police man and instantly think they are there to protect. A fireman, to save lives. A pilot to safely fly you 35,000 feet in the air. Little do we know that that policeman might be corrupt. That fireman is struggling at home and is off his game, that pilot still on his training. But the trust, it’s still automatically there. As we have learned, not all hero’s wear capes. A man in the street has a heart attack and it’s the homeless guy who saves his life. You have a nervous break down, and it’s your best friend that brings you back into health. Shouldn’t it be the Doctor who runs to the rescue or the counselor who helps your struggles. Not always. Yet if we were to choose who to put our lives in the hands of, would you pick the doctor of forty years of the newly qualified of one? Both equally trained, one in scrubs the other In a lab coat. Now yes, that seems very stereotypical, and is verging on looking at years of experience not just uniform. But if a Dr. walks up in a lab coat and another off duty in his gym wear, at first glance you’d question why the old guy in his gym wear is stood in your cubicle. Little did you know he’s the senior giving advice to the young lab coated doctor. Once you know that you think “ah ok, that’s fine then,” but at first glance you think “who the hells this guy looking at my private information!”
It’s a symbol, you wouldn’t question a random guy walking into a cockpit if he was in a uniform, but you would if he was in his gym wear. Look at the film Catch Me If You Can. I adore this film because it just proves the power of the uniform, how many times did Dicaprio get away with flights as a captain and also as a doctor. With the help of his forgery and his uniform he got away the charade for years. If Dicaprio had walked onto that aircraft not in his uniform he would of been questioned, but he didn’t. The scary fact is, that film is a true story, and the real guy really did pose as these models of society. Just reassure he got caught eventually, and these days we have so many strict rules, it’s now not impossible to get on an aircraft posing as a pilot. You even need an ID to get into the airside part of airport, never mind the aircraft. As crew, we even checked our cleaners IDs as they came on board between flights. Pilots, like crew, always have briefings before hand , so it’d look a bit suspicion if Peter random pilot suddenly turned up as extra crew!
I could go on about how how status, first impressions, security, trust, and attractiveness all play their part in the role of the uniform, but I’ll leave you to make your own assumptions. This article is not leaning on one view or another, but merely a think field for concepts of the uniform and how they can pose in our society. As a past film student, I'd watch the film below. Then next time you see a man or woman in uniform, what will you think?