The early years: ’30s, ’40s and ’50s
Above all else, a cabin crew member’s responsibility has always been to ensure the safety of the passengers. Therefore, these employees need a dress code that enables them to complete various tasks without ᴇɴᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀing their own or others’ safety.
The uniform was very different from what it is today in the late 1920s and early 1930s, when commercial airlines first started hiring their cabin crew. Clothing was thick, tough, and had a more overtly military flair. Cabin crew back then wore capes, long skirts that hung below the knee, and large hats that covered their ears. It was intended to instill a sense of responsibility and professionalism in the cabin crew. You can see why the cape might not have been the most useful piece of clothing, though.
However, a new strategy that made use of the advantages of cabin crew members had been put in place by the late 1950s and well into the 1960s. Airlines at the time hired cabin crew with a specific goal in mind. In order to increase profits, they sought unmarried women who met specific height and weight requirements. Then, in order to appeal to the largely male clientele at the time, these women were sᴇxualized.
In order to increase sᴇx appeal and increase airline profits, cabin crew members would frequently be seen in tiny hot pants and knee-high boots in the 1960s. Of course, not all airlines adopted this strategy, even though they made sure to highlight a wOᴍᴀɴ’s figure. Bright colors and belts were used to draw attention to the wearer.
The development of the modern uniform
Thankfully, the sᴇxist clothing trend only lasted until the 1960s, just as a new, more sophisticated style was taking over. In actuality, despite having a contemporary twist, this outfit was more akin to the original flight attendant outfit design.
The business suit was considered when creating these new outfits. Hot pants were not in style, even though small heels were. Knee-length skirts and other less constricting clothing took their place. Some uniforms adopted the waistcoat and sleeveless jumper in the 1980s.
Since then, airlines have really infused their own style into the uniforms worn by their employees. Nowadays, waistcoats are very uncommon, but ᴍᴀɴy members of the cabin crew still wear blazers over short sleeve shirts. For men, the typical attire consists of a wʜɪᴛe shirt, a blazer, and matching, crisply pressed suit pants. Additionally, some female cabin crew members can choose to wear pants.
But not all uniforms are standardized in modern times. Neckties, berets, and other hats are worn by some members of the cabin crew. Even more varied are the uniforms worn by the cabin crews of airlines that are associated with a particular culture. For example, Hawaiian Airlines’ crew members wear floral shirts and hibiscus flowers behind their ears.
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Video resource: Condé Nast Traveler