Clothes make the man (or woman)! Though more and more workplaces are going for casual dress codes, a number of industries still require uniforms for their employees. Much of the time, it’s basically their signature, but these instantly recognizable looks haven’t always been set in stone.
For these companies and professions, their style of dress once looked totally different. You’ll wonder how some of these people even managed to do their jobs! These wild vintage uniforms are anything but uniform…
1. Amtrak: Contemporary employees of the company wear “military-inspired” blazers and ties. But they weren’t always as straight-laced. In the 1970s, they wore colorful berets, and women employees rocked hot pants!
2. McDonald’s: Besides updating their short-sleeved, collared shirts, the fast food giant totally updated their hats over the years. Employees now sport classic baseball caps. Those paper monstrosities only get used to package their burgers.
3. Nurses: In the early 20th century, nurses’ bulky outfits definitely made them recognizable. Still, the large dresses and caps — inspired by nuns’ habits — encumbered movement. These days, most nurses have adopted sleek and simple scrubs.
British Red Cross
4. Zookeepers: Back in the day, animal handlers dressed more like military officers, with blazers, trousers, and peaked caps. Wisely, their modern counterparts switched to khaki outfits better suited to the rough-and-tumble nature of their job.
5. Gymnasts: In the early 1900s, women’s gymnastics garb was anything but athletic. The billowy dresses looked like they belonged at a tea party, not on the parallel bars. The skin-tight leotard became the dominant fashion by the 1970s, allowing competitors a full range of movement.
6. Waitresses: If you visit any trendy restaurant, you’re likely to spot servers in black t-shirts and pants. Decades ago, you’d almost always see waitresses rushing around in collared, gingham dresses. Only throwback diners — think jukeboxes and polyester seats — still keep these duds around.
7. Firefighters: Before the advent of flame-resistant garb, firemen had to rely on nothing but woolen clothing and rubber boots for protection. Fortunately, they now utilize state-of-the-art uniforms, complete with masks and air tanks for easy breathing.
8. Tennis players: Today’s top pros make a racket in hi-tech shirts, shorts, and skirts — or a “catsuit” in Serena Williams’ case. But in the early 1900s, tennis aficionados wore formal dresses, sweaters, and ties that belonged more at a garden party than a Grand Slam.
9. Park rangers: Up until the 1970s, female rangers had no choice but to wear skirts with heeled boots — not the easiest outfit when trekking through mountains and forests. They later won access to the practical version donned by their male colleagues.
National Park Service
10. Pittsburgh Steelers: It must really sting whenever the Steelers have to take the field in their vintage bumblebee uniforms. The stripes are glaring, and the numbers in white boxes look like pieces of paper glued on to the jerseys. At least they skipped the leather helmets!
11. Postal workers: Bring out the shorts! The postal service forced employees to sweat in long, heavy pants but did allow women in their ranks to wear skirts. The guys got so jealous that a few actually cut off their pant legs. Once their superiors figured out that this move made sense, they embraced shorts with open arms — and legs.
12. Police: If the cut and fabric of older police uniforms come off as militaristic, it’s for good reason. Many of them arrived from a surplus of army gear. Modern police have kept the formality, but added more utility, with holsters and clips for equipment.
13. Doctors: For generations, doctors clad themselves in formal attire, usually darker colors. After all, a black jacket and pants were more appropriate for patients’ high mortality rate. As medicine advanced, however, docs swapped out their funeral wear for white coats or scrubs.
14. Pilots: Aviator fashion has evolved quite a bit, largely based on the fact that pilots used to be exposed to the air. While they once needed googles, leather hats, and heavy scarves, they now opt for classy suits and caps.
15. Dunkin Donuts: The commercials say that America runs on Dunkin, but in the 1970s, Dunkin workers weren’t running very far in these mini dresses. Luckily the DD execs dropped the cutesy outfits for functional brown and white clothing.
16. U.S. Marines: Since their formation in 1775, the Marines’ uniforms have undergone a series of changes to keep up with the times. They introduced their famous globe, eagle, and anchor symbol in 1859, and moved away from wool fabric.
17. Ballerinas: Dancers around the turn of the century had to pirouette across the stage in wide, heavy skirts to protect their modesty. In the present, ballerinas usually appear in more form-fitting, athletic clothes that bring more attention to the human form.
18. Lifeguards: With all due respect to the Parkway Beach hunk, full-body wool swimsuits aren’t so chic anymore. Today’s pool and beach guards go for suits made of synthetic fabric. They also utilize better sun protection, while still getting their tan on.
Flickr / Craig Moe
19. Umpires: Top pitchers can hurl a fastball around 100 miles per hour, so it’s no surprise that umpires need a little more padding behind the plate. Instead of hoping their snazzy suits will repel any wild pitches, umpires don masks, guards, and chest protectors either inside or outside their shirts.
20. Flight attendants: Taking a look at Delta Air Lines’ apparel, stewardesses once strode up and down the aisles with pencil skirts, blazers, and pillbox hats. A modern makeover has replaced that look with sleeker dresses and suits, available in red or purple.
Delta / Flickr
Uniforms aren’t the only items of clothing that have changed with time. In fact, so much of what people used to wear is almost too bizarre to be believed. Take the “Speed-Limit” skirt for example.
21. The “Speed-Limit” skirt (1910): Long ago, skirts were designed to be very narrow, and they would often rip when women took wide steps. To avoid tearing the fabric, ladies started placing special loops around the base of their clothing to prevent them from taking broad steps. However, it made them look like they were hobbling when they walked.
22. The bullet bra (1940-1950s): This trend was actually kind of funny-looking when you think about it. Still today, women all over the world want bigger busts, and this was a very unique way to achieve it. Your fashion was on point, ladies!
23. Beehive hairdo (1960s): Many women during the ’60s believed this updo (a hairstyle where the hair is fastened up away from the face and neck) was elegant-looking. In reality, it kind of made it look like they were hiding watermelons in their hair.
24. Psychedelic patterns (1960-1970s): It’s no surprise the psychedelic clothing trend started in San Francisco, California. San Fran was the mecca for hippie culture in the United States at the time. Vibrant colors and ornate patterning were all the rage.
25. Men’s fashion (1970s): The ’70s was a bizarre time for men’s fashion; there were turtlenecks, oddly shaped suits, and whatever the heck the guy is wearing in the picture on the bottom right. Luckily, not every man at the time followed these strange trends.
26. Mullets (1970-1980s): This “business in the front, party in the back” hairstyle came from the 19th century when fisherman wore their hair long on their necks so they wouldn’t catch a cold from the cool temperatures while out at sea. Then, David Bowie decided to rock out with one in the ’70s… and everyone else followed suit.
27. Padded shoulders (1980s): Broad shoulders seemed to be all the hype in the ’80s, and large pads were added to both men’s and women’s tops to accentuate the look. The trend has since faded, but celebrities like Lady Gaga still rock them occasionally.
28. Aerobic workout clothes (1980s): The female fitness gurus of the ’80s sure knew how to start a strange trend. People all over, both men and women, were wearing leg warmers, leotards, and sporty underwear over their clothing. Yikes!
29. Insanely teased hair (1980s): Teasing wasn’t only done among friends in the ’80s—it was also done to hair! What was once a fashionable hairstyle now looks like the result of sticking a metal fork in an electrical outlet.
30. Bright blushes (1980s): Bright blushes may have been popular years ago, but nowadays, when people wear too much vibrant makeup on their face, they come across looking a little clownish. A gentler application has become the norm these days.
31. Fanny packs (1990s): This item is actually a very handy way to hold all of your accessories in a convenient spot, but they look a little less than cool. They’re more appropriate for people like street vendors or workers who need to keep things on hand at all times.
32. High platform shoes (1990s): Some people in the ’90s seemed to crave footwear that would allow them to loom over others, so they wore high thick-soled platform shoes, even though many people hurt their ankles in the process.
33. Low-rise jeans (2000s): Low-rise jeans are still around today, but most men and women who sport them don’t let their low-rise look get this darn low!
34. Spray tans (2000s): Advertising tells us tan skin is desirable, and people will go to all sorts of bizarre lengths to achieve the look, including turning themselves orange in the process. Going to the beach to soak up some natural rays is one thing, but it’s completely different when you drench your skin with the contents of an aerosol canister.
35. Harem pants (2010s): The extremely low crotch in harem pants might make them comfortable, but they’re not exactly flattering. They look like the ultimate lounge pants, and the designs are pretty cool. Still, they leave a lot to be desired in the appeal department.