Appearances are everything. Because employees are the public face of casinos, what they wear—their uniforms—is as much a part of the overall resort experience as how they greet and interact with guests.
Casinos are constantly changing to meet increasing competition and the challenge of attracting new customers. As decor has evolved, so have uniforms. Many styles of the past seem gaudy or even costume-like by today’s standards. Nowadays, casinos are opting for a simpler, more elegant look—though a touch of glam remains.
Staying on trend is essential, says Joanna Cordero, manager of design at Cintas Corp., one of the country’s leading casino uniform outfitters.
“I see a new generation, a new customer in these casinos. I see a lot of properties changing that image of the shimmery, Old Vegas look. Now it’s simpler. It still has a lot of luster, but it’s not as flashy,” she says. “It’s more sophisticated.”
Keeping Up Appearances
Because employees bring the brand image to life, operators often involve them in the uniform design process.
“The employees of a casino are walking, talking guest-service specialists,” says Chuck Campbell, president and co-founder of At Work Uniforms, based in Orange Beach, Alabama, which been outfitting casino employees across the U.S. since 1991. “The employee’s role is conveying the hospitality and looking the part—playing a role—in the casino’s overall theme.
“In the past, management said, ‘It’s a uniform; just wear it,’” he says. “Now, most uniform decision committees on the property have participants who are actually going to be the ones wearing the uniforms.”
At Work Uniforms serves as both a wholesale distributor of stock uniform brands, such as Carhartt and Dickies, and a custom uniform designer.
Uniform outfitters’ knowledge of the industry is vital in creating uniforms that fit the job. If an operator wants a specific uniform style, but it’s one that may not work well for someone of a larger size, there’s always an alternative, Cordero says.
“We have ample options to work with, but we have to understand who’s on the floor. You gather all the team members in each department and cohesively design something that works for everybody,” she says.
“Uniforms contribute to the integrity of the staff,” agrees Elana Gallant, director of sales and development at Uniforms by Class Act, based in Pompano Beach, Florida, which has served the casino industry since the early 1990s. “Combining style and comfort can really give them the confidence to feel and look good. The staff must look comfortable and confident. That’s why many of our designs are made to fit all shapes and sizes.”
Wear testing is important to ensure that garments work for specific jobs. For example, Campbell says, if the maintenance department switches to a new brand of work pants, “You’d better put one or two of them in it to make sure everyone likes them.”
Color, fabric and print may tell most of the story, but it’s comfort that completes it, boosting employee morale and adding to the customer experience.
“Uniforms pull together the look of the staff to coordinate with the much-thought-about interior design of the casino,” says Gallant. “If an employee is uncomfortable in a uniform, it can be apparent. When the staff is comfortable and confident wearing their uniforms, the casino’s desired image will be clearly realized in the positive and proud attitude of their staff.”
Most of Class Act’s business consists of custom-made uniforms in an array of pattern designs that can be tweaked with changes to color, fabric or other features, Gallant says. The company is also a reseller of familiar brands like Edwards Garment, SanMar Corp., Uncommon Threads, Chef Works and others.
The ‘Wow’ Factor
While today’s casino uniform styles may not be as glittery as in years past, they remain on trend. Outfitters and suppliers attend design, technology and fabric trade shows to stay on top of what’s new.
Eco-friendly and washable fabrics, with clean lines and simple styles, are trending these days. It’s mainstays like color, design and fit that make a memorable first impression—and details matter. Buttons, trim, lapels and texture: “It’s those details in a garment that you see when you’re out shopping,” Cordero says.
“Everyone is trying to outdo each other, especially in Las Vegas. We’re in such close proximity here. The customer is changing. We have a new generation—the millennials—that they’re trying to attain.”
Today’s uniform trends may not be “the glitz of the famous ladies of Caesars Palace from the 1980s, but they’re still fashionable with newer colors and fabrics,” Campbell says. For example, he says, “Charcoal gray is the new black.”
The pressure casino operators feel to tell a new and different story via a refreshed design scheme exists in Vegas and beyond. Many markets now include multiple properties and new competition.
“You do see those individual properties outside Las Vegas feeling the heat a little bit,” Cordero says. “You’re coming for an experience, and the last thing you need to see is an old, dated uniform. People want the experience of seeing something new and different.”
Casino operators tend to bring in new uniform designs about every three to five years, Campbell says, usually coinciding with carpet and wall covering changes.
“If you come in and put all new carpet down, the first thing you notice is the carpet had orange; the shirts have orange,” he says. “Now, we’ve got blue. We need blue shirts.”
Styles change, but they are also likely to resurface. The tuxedo halter top and women’s tails coat have been in the lineup for more than 20 years, says Gallant.
“We evolve our designs and keep everything fresh, but you can always choose a classic if needed,” she says.
“Casinos have always been regarded as the place to go for the highest entertainment value providing a truly unique experience for their customers. Today we’re using fabrics that require less maintenance but still offer enough flash to maintain the ‘wow’ factor.”
The “wow” factor is an essential part of the story, with the employees wearing them as the storytellers. A well-designed uniform conveys a clear message to customers, Campbell says: “We’re glad you’re here, enjoy the entertainment, and please come back.”