The Reason Customers Hate The McDonald's Uniform Change

McDonald's has rolled out several changes over the last decade or so that were a hit with both the general public and its investors. The all-day breakfast, introduced in 2017, sent stocks soaring to an all-time high, while the following year's push to replace frozen patties with fresh beef for its quarter pounders helped the Golden Arches gain market share for the first time in five years. 

Other recent innovations that have been generally well-received included self-service kiosks, delivery via Uber Eats, and moving towards recyclable cups and sustainable coffee. The one big change that did not play out so well, however, was also the one most readily noticeable as soon as you walk into the restaurant. 

In 2017, all U.S. McDonald's restaurants adopted a new uniform for their employees and these uniforms were... shall we say, not such a big hit with the customers, although they did prove a popular topic for Twitter trolling and meme-making.  

The new McDonald's uniform collections

The new McDonalds uniforms actually included two separate collections, one of these being the brainchild of a well-known clothing designer, Waraire Boswell, whose creations have been worn by an extensive list of fashion-forward celebs: actors Ryan Gosling and Will Smith, musicians Bruno Mars, Sean Combs and Nas, and ballers Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant. The other uniform collection, called "Timeless Elements," was created by Bindu Rivas, a British clothing designer who has worked with UK McDonald's as well as other businesses, including banks and airlines.

One thing both collections have in common is a decidedly somber color palette. The WARAIRE for McDonald's line includes grey tees and long-sleeved shirts with a small McDonald's logo, as well as dark blue button-downs with red detailing. The Timeless Elements collection has grey and black color-blocked tees, polos, and even neckties with yellow (as in "Golden Arches" yellow) detailing and logos. Each McDonald's franchise was allowed the choice between the two collections, as well as one item that appears to go with both collections, a dark grey denim convertible apron that can be work either up or just from the waist down.

The internet reacts to McDonald's new uniforms

No sooner had McDonald's launched its new uniforms than the internet began to react... and the reactions were anything but positive. One of the more positive comments came from fashion website Refinery29, whose reviewer described the new look as being "suited to dispensing artisanal kombucha in a Brooklyn fair-trade coffee shop/bar/vegan bakery/bike shop hybrid," but non-hipster McDonald's customers were far less enthusiastic. One of the words that came up a lot on Twitter was "dystopian" — Uproxx tweeted, "McDonald's embraces dystopian future with bleak new uniforms," while other tweets included: "The new McDonald's uniforms look like something out of a 1970s dystopia," "McDonald's new uniforms is as dystopian as you can imagine," and "The new McDonalds uniforms look like they should be worn while beating up teenagers in a dystopian young adult novel."

Others on social media compared McDonald's new uniforms to something that would be worn while serving Star Wars stormtroopers on the Death Star or citizens of District 12 in The Hunger Games or, more prosaically, maids or security guards. One Facebook commenter/former customer went so far as to say "I refuse to eat at McDonald's. The black is dismal and depressing. I feel like I'm at a funeral walking into your stores now."

How did McDonald's employees like their new uniforms?

While the customers do have to look at the uniforms, McDonald's actually had another group in mind that they were trying to please when having the uniforms designed — the approximately 850,000 employees who would actually have to wear them, day in and day out. Designer Waraire Boswell worked at a McDonald's himself in his McSalad days, and said he "underst[ood] the design and functionality needs of the next generation of uniforms [and] wanted to design a line of uniforms that people would feel comfortable wearing outside of work."

Did he succeed? Well, according to an article at Fortune, a McDonald's spokesperson revealed that the new unis had actually been a hit with 70 percent of the workforce. Evidently most McD's employees "fe[lt] that the new uniforms provide[d] a modern image that they would be proud to wear." And if you check out at some of the McDonalds uniforms worn in earlier eras –— well, really, who can blame today's crew members for preferring the new look? While the look didn't exactly go over well with the general public, they don't seem to be out of favor for those who have to toil away at the fryer for hours at a time.