Pretty much all of us have donned a stupid uniform for a stupid job at some point in our careers. If you have not, we hope the life of Warren Buffet-level wealth is working well for you. For the rest of us, wearing a branded polo shirt and visor while handling fries was a rite of passage, like dealing with pimples and pretending to be sexually active. Even in the worst employment circumstances, however, few of us have had to deal with the monstrous outfits our great-grandparents wore to work.
Office Workers Had Their Phones (And Desks) Attached To Them
Between answering phones, scheduling golf games, and dodging sexy secretary jokes, office work really hasn’t changed much in the past several forevers. Office attire, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter. Gone are the days of stockings, pumps, and 50,000 bobby pins required by both male and female office workers. The modern desk jockey simply needs a button-down shirt and shoes that cover their gnarly toes. A hundred years ago, working with a phone might have meant using one of the first hands-free communication devices. It just so happened that the contraption looked like what happens when a back brace mates with a phone booth: Back then, you weren’t always on your phone. Your phone was always on you.
At a whopping six and a half pounds, the first hands-free phone needed a harness to strap it to the poor woman tasked with answering calls about steam engines and bow ties or whatever people talked about back in olden days.
As hard as it may be to believe now, these ungodly contraptions were once considered a convenient way to create efficiency and speed for the women working in the field. They even had their own crazy old-timey version of a mobile desk, which was absolutely enormous. Not only was someone paid to sit in this mobile cubicle for hours on end, but someone else was paid just to push them from room to room. And not even in like a fun rolling chair war kind of way.
Clearly, businesses were all about maintaining momentum and keeping their employees working as long as humanly possible. Another device used to promote efficiency was the headlamp. Not for coal miners or firemen, but government record clerks. The light hats were meant to allow the women to see in the dark government warehouses that held records. Officials realized that replacing the lights in the facility would cost a crazy $20,000, and decided to go ahead and not do that. Instead, they would make their clerks walk around with permanent halos, because filing is the Lord’s work.
Early Space Suits Were Hilarious
Let’s say you lived in the 1950s and wanted to help the U.S. in the space race against the USSR, but weren’t quite smart/cool/aerodynamic enough for the job of astronaut. No problem! You could apply for the job of “space suit tester,” and do your part for the country while looking absolutely ridiculous. For example, someone had to try on this monstrosity while the Air Force developed the X-15 rocket powered spaceplane project:
Eventually, they would perfect the bendy arms, but the helmet would grow to inconceivable proportions until the wearer looked like a shiny metal Mr. Peanut with a dangerous infectious disease:
The suits would continue to evolve over time, finally settling into a design that closer matches what we know today. But before we set our sights on the moon, we had our eyes on vacuum tube assembly. And then we quickly realized that the giant bubble suits used to keep vacuum tube assemblers safe while on duty could double quite nicely as moon-walking suits. Or so NASA hoped when they snatched up the design and set to testing it out.
Perhaps the serious lack of mobility led engineers to get a little creative and a lot desperate. At one point, they decided to attempt a new spin on the space suit idea by providing arms and legs that the wearer could place their limbs into for normal-ish mobility while still having the option to roll around like a giant gerbil. It also doubles as an analog Jurassic World prototype.
Cops Apparently Got Their Equipment From Inspector Gadget
Police officers are kind of cool, right? They sure as heck are when you’re a little kid, anyway. The only uniforms that had a larger showing at kindergarten career day were firefighters. Badges and patches might change from place to place, but for the most part, police uniforms are, well, rather uniform. The same basic shapes and principles are there across the board, and they’ve been since the very beginning. The jacket, the hat, the slapping board … wait, the what?
Those were straight-up called “slappers,” and they were used to replace dangerous nightsticks throughout the Indianapolis police force in the early 1930s. The boards were made of rubber, so as to minimize the danger received by the slap-ee. They were said to have been invented by the city’s chief of police, who honestly should have known better.
Two years later, in 1935, a different bullet-less offensive alternative was derived from a glove rigged up to a portable battery. This early taser rendition looks as dangerous for the wearer as it does for those on the receiving end.
It was intended to be used to subdue riots in the most humane way possible … which seems impossible, by the looks of that miserable thing. It was said to be able to produce up to 5,000 volts of electricity, which does sound humane when compared to our modern 50,000-volt versions. But those are meant to be nonlethal, so we fail to see how these vintage versions were much more than a tickle. And yet there was a nifty switch that was only to be flipped in the most dire of situations in order to allow those high voltages to flow. And the inside of the glove was supposed to be insulated to protect officers from murdering themselves every time they did their damn jobs. But this whole thing looks like a giant bowl of “No, thank you” to us.
In a further attempt to humiliate the boys in blue, Chicago’s early riot shields were giant metal moon man cutouts on heavy casters that an officer would wheel around in front of him when he needed to ambush a building or something. But did they work? You bet your bloomers they did. They tested those suckers with a point-blank bullet, because people used to be fucking insane.
In the same city, in the same era, officers decided those in need should have the ability to immediately identify a member of the force the moment they saw one. So they outfitted their cars with giant neon signs emblazoned with the word “police” in bold capital letters.
Travelling Photographers Looked Like Ghosts
Historical photography has always been drenched in grim darkness. The sad death photo trends, the ghastly ghost moms — when our ancestors attempted to document their lives, things got creepy fast. But you don’t normally see the people behind the lens — the picture-takers, music makers, and dreamers of dreams. Like wallflowers and moms everywhere, the photographer was rarely ever caught on film themselves. And thank goodness for that, because these guys were a hot mess.
People were already laughing at how dumb they looked, so smiles weren’t an issue.
Before digital photography, smartphones, or even the halcyon days of the Polaroid camera, traveling photographers and especially reporters had few options when it came it to delivering engaging photos on the quick. To speed up the process of developing film by hand, photogs took their entire lab on the road, often wearing every last bit of their equipment on their backs as they performed their duties. This was meant to allow the photographer to get a jump on rival picture takers by giving them the ability to process their photos the instant they were taken.
1960s Airlines Existed In A Dystopian Logan’s Run Future
In the swinging ’60s, Emilio Pucci brought a fun, funky, futuristic vibe to the open skies when he seemingly drew inspiration for his flight attendant uniforms from those bastions of progressivism, The Jetsons. But hey, it was the 60’s. Everybody took inspiration from those guys, right? How bad could it really be?
These bobblehead helmets were intended to keep stewardesses’ intricate hairstyles safe from the rain whilst walking from the airport to the plane. But the fishbowls were tossed after a month of use, because they had a tendency to crack and were also completely unnecessary. Unnecessary to any reasonable human being, at least. Which Pucci clearly wasn’t, given another of his lines was dubbed the “Air Strip,” and required the attendant to remove articles of clothing during the flight.