With summer underway, there’s little else in the corporate fashion world that screams the season is upon us more than UPS drivers and their brown shorts.
Given that UPS has been consistently ranked as one of Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies, a notable uniform isn’t such a shock. In the most recent list, the company was ranked number 32.
Introduced in 1991 to help employees beat the heat, the shorts have become synonymous with summer. Dan McMackin, a current spokesman for UPS and a former driver, remembers his years in Wisconsin and the impact of those shorts on the job.
“There was a progression,” he said, noting the shift from wearing heavy winter trousers to a spring outfit made from a lighter fabric. “Certainly we knew it was summer when we put the shorts on. For any UPS driver in North America, shorts mean summer.”
UPS, which claims to have the “world’s largest private uniformed workforce,” distributes over one million uniforms each year. Among those are 192,000 pairs of shorts to clothe 85,000 drivers around the world.
But along with shorts, UPS workers have other clothes to complete their uniforms for every season including over 188,000 hats, 459,000 shirts, and 303,000 trousers. To put production challenge of into perspective, the uniforms require 174,987 miles of thread annually and 950 miles of fabric, according to McMackin.
What was the main factor in adding shorts to the company’s signature, all-brown repertoire? Comfort, according to a UPS blog post. And it seems like shorts may be going more mainstream in corporate fashion, too, with the “short suit” – the combination of shorts worn with a sports coat – gaining in popularity (although not without criticism).
The UPS shorts even garnered enough attention for The Onion, a satirical news website, to profile them. “My shorts symbolize rebirth,” one fake UPS worker is quoted as saying. “They give people hope for new beginnings.”