Fast food giant McDonald's has commissioned fashion designer Bruce Oldfield to come up with new uniforms for its restaurant staff, in what it describes as a 'mark of respect' for employees doing a 'challenging job'. The idea is that once staff are decked out in the new 'contemporary look' black or mocha outfits, they will feel good about the prospect of serving 2m irritable customers in search of their regular hit of e-numbers every day. You can't help but admire that kind of optimism.
Still, it's another step in the gradual evolution of the McJob, the negative connotations of which McDonald's has worked so hard to dispel in recent years. And as the newly-designer-clad staff leave their spotless restaurants (our spies tell us you could eat your dinner off the floor in the average McDonald's kitchen) and head to the McDonald's university to get their McDonald's degrees, it's certainly getting tougher for anyone to argue that the McJob represents all that's bad about low-paying service jobs.
Oldfield (a favourite of Catherine Zeta Jones, we're told) has designed corporate gear before - no doubt to the horror of the fashion purists. But he didn't find the task as easy as you might expect. Apparently he had to go back to the drawing board after employees complained that an early prototype was a little lacking in delicacy for a daily-use garment. 'We had to get rid of it because we didn't want our boys' or girls' nipples chafed',' Oldfield cheerfully informed the BBC. Hear hear.
But whatever its effect on staff nipples, the new uniform is a sign of McDonald's burgeoning self-confidence. Hiring big-name designers to create new outfits might seem a pretty bullish move at a time when high street spending appears to be slowing down - but it's a sign of McDonald's belief that it could fare well in a downturn, as people 'trade down' to cheaper meal options. It certainly seems to be going pretty well at the moment - in January, it said sales growth for the current financial year was running at 6%, the highest level since the 1980s. And with some 90m customers passing through the Golden Arches every month, it won't be short of cash in the bank.
Still, who'd have thought we'd ever see the day when McJobbers were wearing designer uniforms. Let's just hope Oldfield's new outfits aren't dry clean only, like most designer stuff - that would really put a big hole in the fast food giant's bottom line...