In their electric orange and blue uniforms, the ushers at Anaheim Stadium always stand out in a crowd.
“The bright colors are so the ushers can be easily identified,” explains Frank Ventrola, event services assistant for Anaheim Stadium who supervises the wardrobe of 700 employees. “They’re so the ushers won’t be mistaken for another guest.”
Fat chance. Only an usher would show up to a baseball game wearing a screaming orange polyester blazer, royal blue slacks with orange military stripes down the pant leg, a blue tie and a white yachting cap.
Ushers at the Big A aren’t the only employees in Orange County who must grin and wear whatever outlandish attire management sees fit.
If clothes make the man, some employers figure they also make the sale. They dress up their workers in eye-catching costumes, including some colorful double-knit numbers that employees would never, ever pick for themselves.
Some uniforms cause employees a measure of discomfort, if not outright humiliation. Pity waiters Chris Bunch and John McCall, cast in the roles of serfs at the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament in Buena Park.
Bunch and McCall must spend each working day parading around in red and yellow tights and short black skirts. Oh, the indignity of it. Men speak to them in high voices. Women ask them to lift up their skirts.
“When I first started working here, I said, ‘No, I’m not wearing that,’ but everybody else was,” McCall says.
Employees learn quickly that the uniform goes with the job.
Once a female usher showed up at Anaheim Stadium looking almost stylish.
“Her blazer was so fitted, it looked like a riding coat instead of the full look we wanted,” Ventrola says. “You could see every curve of her body. Our supervisor kept asking her if she was gaining weight.”
Then the awful truth came out: She’d taken the uniform to a tailor for alterations. So seriously do stadium officials view any desecration of their uniforms, the woman was fired.
“People try to alter the uniforms to suit their own taste. They take the trousers and peg them in at the ankles--we’ve caught them doing that,” Ventrola says. “We don’t want our look destroyed.”
Many uniform styles seen in Orange County exist in a kind of time warp, steadfastly resisting fashion trends year after year.
Some styles have remained unchanged since the ‘60s, and not until the dawn of the ‘90s did employers realize the uniforms looked a little, well, silly.
Uniforms for Anaheim Stadium were designed in 1969. The style was supposed to resemble a band director’s uniform, with a somewhat nautical flair.
“We chose brighter colors because it lends gaiety to the look,” Ventrola says.
“A lot of people ask, ‘Why orange?’ Some don’t like that color. But it identifies us with Orange County and it reflects off the skin, giving it a nice rosy color.”
Yet even Ventrola concedes that the uniforms now look dated. Plans are on the drawing board for new uniforms, to be phased in during 1991-92.
“We’ll stay away from that orange color,” Ventrola promises.
Employees at the Anaheim Convention Center, who wear similar quasi-military uniforms, will also get a long-overdue fashion makeover.
“We’re in the middle of uniform reformation,” says John Dillon, event security coordinator who oversees the convention center’s wardrobe department. “The ushers are currently wearing very, um, distinctive orange jackets with brown trousers, brown ties and white caps. The uniforms have been in place 22 years, and it’s about time for a change.”
Parking attendants have already received the new uniforms, which feature teal-colored blazers to match the center’s new teal, gray and white logo. Nobody’s mourning the loss of the orange blazers.
“Orange was a hot color in the late ‘60s,” Dillon says. “I vaguely recall dating a girl who had bright orange carpeting.”
He expects all employees to be wearing the new uniforms by the end of 1991.
“They’re cooler and kind of snazzy,” he says. “We’re also doing away with the military stripe down the pant leg, (a move) which I think is being cheered.”
Some uniforms become so strongly identified with a business, they may never change.
Hot Dog on a Stick has achieved notoriety among fast-food outlets for its employees’ uniforms--bright red, white, blue and yellow striped jockey hats, matching tank tops and red shorts. Subtle, they are not.
“So many places sell corn dogs, but people know us,” says Jennifer Siegert, manager of the Hot Dog on a Stick in Laguna Hills Mall, who has been wearing the get-up without complaint for 10 years.
“Babies love this place. They think we look like clowns. People from Leisure World think it’s really cute.”
The uniforms were designed by Hot Dog on a Stick’s owner, Dave Barham, in the mid-'60s.
“That’s when hot pants and jockey hats were popular,” says daughter Diane Barham, who helps run the business. Diane’s mother made the first uniforms, and Diane remembers sewing buttons atop the prototype hats.
“People want to order a hot dog and a hat,” she says. Some customers have offered $100 for the hats, but they’re not for sale.
“The uniform is memorable,” Diane says. “You can’t remember what the employees at McDonald’s were wearing when you ordered that Big Mac, but you can remember us.”
When the company offered $3,000 to the employee who could design a better uniform, the money went unclaimed. An independent committee decided the old style couldn’t be topped.
“We’ll never change them,” Diane vows.