Are Hospitality Uniforms Facing A New Gen Z Challenge?

Most people agree that sustainability matters and in the hotel and restaurant sector, some will view the sustainability of their work wear as being just as significant as that of the food they serve or their energy usage.

The obvious response to that, up to now, might be to apply a range of obviously sustainable principles to the production and sourcing of hospitality uniforms.

However, according to an article in Business Insider, the latest trends in fashion finding favor with Generation Z may conflict with this somewhat, because rejection of the idea of any kind of uniformity is a central feature of them. It summed up the latest Generation Z fashion trends as “sustainable, intentional, and just a little bit silly and ugly”.

It stated that one of these is known as ‘Wrong Shoe Theory’. In effect, it is about making what would hitherto seem utterly unfashionable the most fashionable thing of all.

The essence of this is that at a time when there is so much concern about the environment, sustainability takes precedence over all else, not least matching fashion. Under this philosophy, if your shoes don’t ‘match’ the rest of the outfit, that doesn’t matter. Better that than buying new ones and dumping the existing ones in landfill.

With the younger generation, I feel like they really value individuality and looking different from other people," Allison Bornstein, who named this concept, told Business Insider.

She added: "This method for getting dressed really just promotes that uniqueness and how you can switch it up very easily and very cost-efficiently.”

This approach may be seen as a reaction to various developments from an environmental crisis to a world in political and economic turmoil, but for anyone employing young staff and welcoming young diners and drinkers, it may feel out of place to have uniform outfits in the midst of a crowd that now sees such a thing as an anathema.

However, that may not necessarily be such a problem. Firstly, your establishment will have its own brand, its own identity, and as such those serving in it are representing the brand and its products, not themselves as individuals. When customers show up, the very first thing they will be looking for is someone they can identify who will take their order.

Consequently, while Generation Z may feel at home mixing and matching their own clothes, that does not mean they will expect hospitality staff to do likewise when they have a night out.

Secondly, it may be questioned just how much prominence the ‘Wrong Show Theory’ is actually going to gain. Next month, Nike will stage its annual SNKRS Day on September 9th, which used to be a Europe-only affair but is now accessible in the US and around the rest of the world.

This will be an archetypal Nike event with various new product drops, features and chat about their shoes, all of which suggest the popularity of designer labels as representatives of the fashion ideals of many young people is still very strong.

Then again, perhaps there is a simple solution to all this: Have your staff wear uniforms, but let them wear what they like on their feet. They can decide just what the right or wrong shoe is, while still carrying the branding and identity of your chain or establishment.

August 03, 2023 — Jake Blakey