You are at an airport, waiting for your boarding call, then suddenly, a group of cabin crew, all dressed, walking in a synchronized fashion, walks by. Everyone's head turns, with their eyes glued on the flight attendants as they walk in style to the aircraft. If they were dressed like any normal person, even on a formal get-up, you would not give them a second look, but with their uniforms on, you can't simply help but stare. Aside from there good looks, it's their uniforms!
Notice that when any other company would showcase their employee uniforms, no one would really give notice, but when an airline present or launch the new uniforms of their flight attendants, it makes the headlines! This is because airlines invests heavily on their F/A uniforms. Some even describes flight attendants as being one of the best or should we say, the best dressed people because of their uniforms.
When Etihad decided to give their cabin crew a new uniform design, they got Ettore Bilotta to reinvent everything, giving it a touch of 1950 classic but glamorous look. Hainan Airlines on the other hand had designer Lawrence Xu give their flight attendant uniform a very classy oriental with a touch of western design. Suffice to say, these flight attendant uniforms are eligible for any top end fashion show. Please do also check our writeup on our reader's choice of the top 10 flight attendant uniforms of 2018.
Well there are various reasons why flight attendant uniforms have to standout, more than just branding. If these uniforms didn't really serve any important purpose, airlines will not go to the extent of hiring top designers and spending an arm and a leg to make these flight attendant uniforms as fashionable as possible.
Before we go down to these, let us first review the roles of cabin crew inside the aircraft.
First, they are your safety professionals. Just like life guards in the beach or swimming pool, they have to be noticed and seen right away. If anything happens like some unfortunate emergency or a medical emergency, the uniforms have to work their purpose.
Secondly, they are there to make sure you have a comfortable flight. Flying can be stressful, especially if you are on a 13 hour or so flight, so these cabin crew makes sure you are not hungry, you get to rest well, and most especially, you are relaxed.
Definitely, we cannot say "just a uniform" when refering to cabin crew uniforms. Again, airlines will never invest heavily on them if it was "just a uniform", and there are numerous reasons why they look very glamorous.
Your cabin crew have to stand out.
People have to be able to easily identify their cabin crew especially during in an event of an emergency situation. It should also give that impression of dignity and authority on board the aircraft. They have to be that "men and women in uniforms", just the same way how our police and armed forces have to look very good in their to project that sense of authority. Remember the incident of the US Airways flight 1549 that ended up in the Hudson river? Well there was this story of a passenger seated at the back of the aircraft. The flight attendant told the male passenger not to open the rear emergency door, but instead of following, he pushed her aside and opened it, causing water to flow inside the aircraft faster! People then were wondering why did the passenger not obey his cabin crew. Didn't she stand out? Didn't she project this kind of dignity or authority with her mere presence uniform? From that time on, airlines have also considered that factor.
Cabin crew members also need a uniform that passenger will respond to during an emergency. For some reason, there has to be a psychological connection between the passengers and the crew that needs to be established and the uniform does just that. They are also designed to function during emergencies. It should allow cabin crew members to move swiftly during emergencies. Some even have ripping points incase they need more flexibility in an event where every second counts.
A uniform have also to project that sense of dignity and authority.
When we see policemen and soldiers walking in their uniforms, clothes all neat, well tucked, and well worn, they project this sense of dignity and authority. A flight attendant's uniform have to play the very same role. Being the safety professionals on board, they do exercise authority inside the aircraft, and they are all protected by the law. Your cabin crew have to look very dignified, and flight attendant uniforms are designed in a way to project just that. Your cabin crew have to stand out because when they have to say something to the passengers especially if it involves a safety concern, they have to listen and pay attention.
Dressed as a sign of respect to their passengers.
When someone meets up with you, all dressed up, looking good, you feel that sign of respect and honor from that person. You are more at ease approaching them, and you are confident that they are very professional in their work that your needs to make your flight more comfortable are addressed. As passengers, we just love that feeling of being served our chicken or beef by very dignified people, you just feel that care and respect for you. The presence of these highly trained professionals alone at 40,000ft makes flying more comfortable as you know you are in good hands, and all these addresses the secondary role of the cabin crew, to make sure you get a comfortable flight.
The cabin crew are the brand ambassadors of the airline and the country of origin.
A cabin crew uniform also supports the branding of the whole airline and for legacy carriers, the culture and colors of it's home country. Notice that airlines barely hires celebrities to endorse their company, instead, they use their own flight attendants in their billboards, media prints, and all their marketing campaign?
That's because the flight attendants are automatically the brand ambassadors as inside the aircraft, they are the ones who face the passengers. It has to project what the airline's brand is about. If you will notice, many low cost carriers have a very casual looking uniform without losing that sense of dignity, respect, and professionalism to their passengers.
What goes into a flight attendant uniform?
If you think that it's the garment that makes a whole flight attendant uniform, well, that's just part of it. A flight attendant uniform is made up of the garment, their make-up (for females), their grooming, their wings nameplate, and their smile. Remove one of those and it would automatically merit them an "incomplete uniform".
Smile? Yes, the smile is a very important part of a flight attendant's uniform. If the garment uniform may differ among all airlines, the flight attendant smiles are all the same. It has to be beautiful, warm, caring, and dignified. A flight attendant's uniform is not a uniform without those signature smiles.
Last but not least, flight attendants want to look good and passengers expect them to look good. Brought by the glamorous age of flying in the 1940s during the era of Pan Am, flight attendants have to look as glamorous as they can up to this date, be it a full service airline or a budget airline. There is always a way to make a flight attendant uniform glamorous without having to deviate from the airline's branding.
All these factors are taken by designers into consideration when designing cabin crew uniforms. It has to be a balance of form and function. It has to serve a purpose.
Whenever cabin crew slips into their uniforms, they automatically slip into playing three roles, just like a movie star slipping into a costume, and these roles are a safety professional, a nurse who makes sure you are comfortable, and a brand ambassador of both the airline and the country.