The history of hotel uniforms is as old as the concept of the hotel itself and was influenced by a number of trends such as those found in the military.
The origins of the hotel itself are actually relatively recent. In the Middle Ages, what we know as the modern hotel, a place where people would seek accommodation and a variety of services, simply did not exist. There were usually inns which were placed on frequently traveled highways and byways. These were usually family run and there was no real need for a uniform (excuse the pun) identity among staff.
In cities, it wasn’t uncommon for those seeking accommodation to stay for extended period of time with a family who would also supply essential services such as meals.
As cities grew and industrialization began to shape modern society there was a growing requirement for what we would today recognize as the beginnings of the modern hotel.
As competition grew it became essential that hotels or inns provided a brand that those in search of superior accommodations could recognize. And with that, the concept of the hotel uniform was born. The uniforms were often ornate and reflected the prestige that would accrue to those who chose a superior establishment.
Many of these ornate uniforms were modeled after military styles or the styling of the uniforms worn by the personal servants of the nobility. The implication being that you would be receiving disciplined service of a type only previously enjoyed by the privileged upper classes. and comfort was only a secondary consideration.
As time went on styles become far less formal, although one still come across ultra-luxury hotels where doormen for instance still boast extremely ornate uniforms.
However today the trend is for uniforms worn by hotel staff to reflect the brand identity of the parent organization, as well as providing guests with a visual clue as to the functions of the various staff at the hotel. Therefore, you will have more formal attire for those in management and front of house positions, while those engaged in housekeeping or general duties will have a very different look – while still maintaining a cohesive brand identity.
There are also new trends in just how uniforms are sourced and how the appearance of staff can best represent the brand while still providing excellent return on investment for the hotel chain.
One of these trends is towards the outsourcing of uniforms. Uniform rental is today becoming increasingly popular. This is growing since modern hotel operations are growing increasingly complex. With staff providing meals, cleaning services, management services and a variety of other services related to the smooth running of the hotel it makes much more sense to outsource the care and maintenance of the wide variety of hospitality uniforms that are required.
Another trend is for the use of more advanced modern materials in the design of the uniforms. There are today materials that are resistant to stains and even wrinkling. These materials are consistently hard wearing and can in the long term save the hotel operation significant amounts of operating capital. In addition, these materials are tailored to provide an extensive range of style – making them suitable for both formal and informal uniforms.
No matter how times have changed the hotel brand is one of the most important assets that any hotel operation has in its portfolio. For this reason, it seems unlikely that the hotel uniform as we know it today will be disappearing anytime soon, even as the industry continues to expand.