A United employee at work in a Carhartt uniform.

STILL IN TEST MODE: United Airlines’ below-wing workers are sporting new Carhartt uniforms, but pilots, flight attendants and other employees won’t be wearing their new Tracy Reese or Brooks Brothers designs until next year.

In 2017, the U.S.-based airline lined up Tracy Reese, along with Brooks Brothers and Carhartt, to suit up 70,000-plus employees with new uniforms. Pilots, male flight attendants and customer service reps will wear Brooks Brothers uniforms. Reese has designed uniforms for female flight attendants and customer service reps that will be manufactured by the American sportswear-maker and retail chain. Earlier this week, United notified employees of how their feedback will lead to more testing of such items as two new dress options, expanded size options, a technical coat for women, additional shirt options, deeper pockets for mobile devices, strengthened buttons and snaps, and more durable fabrics. The next round of designs will be shown to employees this summer and the new uniforms are expected to be introduced next year.

Earlier this month more than 500 Delta employees took legal action against Lands’ End claiming their Zac Posen-designed uniforms caused health-related issues. Faced with lawsuits, Lands’ End defended its Delta uniforms last month. The United spokeswoman said, “I wouldn’t say it’s exactly in response to that. But in general, looking at our uniform program, we’ve been working hand-and-hand with our unions and employees to work with multiple third-party testing. We have been looking at, for example, some things that are known to create certain reactions to make sure that our fabrics are free from that. We’re really going above-and-beyond to make sure that they are safe for our employees.”

The process has been long for good reason, according to Reese, who noted how United has wanted to do its due diligence, include its employees, every level of management and unions in all of the decision-making.

As other airlines introduce new uniforms, “most of the U.S. airlines are in communication about how it’s going with each individual rollout. United is trying to take those learnings and incorporate that into what we’re doing so that they get the best possible outcome,” Reese said. “Everyone is sharing information back and forth….It’s a new day and we don’t all need to covet our information so much. Everyone goes further when they share and are as transparent as possible about process.”

To date, 1,300 employees have been involved with United’s wear testing, the United spokeswoman said. For Brook Brothers, testing the design and functionality, listening to employees’ feedback and responding accordingly is “critical in the ongoing development process” and that has been since the start of the program, a company spokesman said. “We’ve been able to make important changes fueled by that feedback and we’re excited about the positive reactions from our uniform testers,” he said.

Carhartt developed 50 styles for ramp service, technical operations, mechanics, catering crew and other operations employees. Suiting up 29,000 employees is the largest deal for Carhartt Company Gear, a division that specializes in uniforms. The three-year development process led to such looks as reflective high-visibility gear and apparel with pockets designed for specific tools. Most of the United program does not consist of domestic made goods. Well aware of the recent legal troubles that Delta has faced regarding 500 workers’ claims that their Lands’ End-produced uniforms have caused health issues, “Carhartt had already completed extensive wear testing,” a company spokeswoman said. “We stand behind our product development process. Quality is what Carhartt is known for.”

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