The line between the clothing we wear because we want to (fashion) and the clothing we wear because we have to (work uniforms) is today as faded as a pair of dad wash jeans. We choose to wear vintage fatigue pants or French work jackets with our $100 tshirts, while the military and blue collar workers still wear those garments every day. And while the golden age of “fashion” designer uniforms may have peaked with Halston for Braniff in the 1970s, such collaborative designs still happen, as with Engineered Garments making (really handsome) uniforms for ramen joint Ippudo last year. (That’s a brand that arguably specializes in high-design workwear intended for wear outside of work processing workwear through its particular lens to create… workwear for actual work. Fie, workwear!).
If your head isn’t spinning yet, consider Hakui, a line of work uniform clothing designed by Akira Onozuka, who worked for pleat enthusiast Issey Miyake in the 1980s and who’s shown collections in Paris under his own label, Zucca. (Coincidentally, Miyake is also responsible for a famous uniform.) I first read about Hakui on Styleforum and frankly there’s not a lot of English language information on the brand on the web, but the Hakui gallery almost convinced me that a chef’s jacket or waiter’s apron is acceptable, even potentially awesome casual wear. At least some of that effect can be chalked up to Hakui’s stellar styling and photography, which looks like a Monocle fashion spread. I’m sure thousands of restaurant workers in Japan would roll their eyes at this post before rolling up their sleeves and getting back to the job at hand.
Restaurants are an ideal setting for high design workwear as people have come to expect interesting and thematically unified interior design at restaurants above the casual dining level, and why should staff uniforms escape that level of attention to detail? (FWIW my last bartending job still required only a golf shirt with the restaurant’s name embroidered on the chest.) Likewise, though, restaurant work demands a certain level of functionality and durability—both kitchen and front of house staff are hard on their clothes. Curious if Hakui would hold up under the harsh environment of a 9 to 5 and a cubicle.