For my Fashion of Cultures engagement project, I had the privilege of spending a wonderful afternoon at a warehouse in downtown Brooklyn, Sunshine Vending Inc. I observed the typical scene of the warehouse, the fashion industry involved, and spoke to some of the hard-working people that strive to keep the company operating at it’s best. I chose this location for my project because I pass it while driving to school and have always wanted to find out more about what takes place in this local hub of business.
Meet the Team:
Meet Alfredo- Alfredo is a fifty year old male who has been with the warehouse for about two years. He spoke to me about the long hours and difficult labor the job entails. He said the work is well worth it at the end of the day when he walks away with his paycheck to provide for his family along with a sense of satisfaction. “We are good people doing honest work,” he explains while tossing his hands up in the air and smiling. Now that minimum wage is higher, he feels more fairly compensating for his labor, as opposed to being exploited. While Alfedo is relatively new on the job, compared to some of the other employees, he says he finds a sense of security in the warehouse. “We trust each other,” he says simply. “We show up, we sort things, we load the trucks. Sometimes we even ride along. We listen to music, we joke around. But at the end of the day, we get the job done.” Alfredo also spoke about his English getting immensely better during his two years on the job.
Alfredo is seen wearing durable blue jeans, a baseball cap, sneakers, and a sweatshirt. His outfit shows that he is dressed practically and ready for intense labor. His sweatshirt serves as his protection against the cold in the air. Also, the logo across the front is promoting Hollister, wether he intended this or not. His jeans remind me of Echo’s article, in which he describes blue jeans as the pants of practicality since they are not like to crease or spot.
Meet Paulette- Paulette is a forty two year old female who has been with the warehouse for about seven years. “I’ve got the seven year itch,” she says with a twinkle in her eye, “this is my last year here at Sunshine.” She spoke to me about the ups and downs of the years on the job. “When the weather is good, the job is good. When it snows, we still work. When it rains, we still work. Rain or shine, we’re out here getting the job done.” I asked Paulette what her plans are after Sunshine, to which she replied “I’m following my dream sweetie pie. I’m going to make it big in show biz.” Paulette then lectured me about being young and following my dreams. She sent me off with a pat on the shoulder, a chocolate bar, and some encouraging words to “Live big.”
Paulette is seen wearing the same basic work articles as Alfredo and Ferb. While she is also sporting a practical knapsack for her things, she is wearing what seems to be the standard. A baseball cap, durable work pants and a simple shirt, and comfortable sneakers. Within this sem-genderless work outfit both men and women seem to sport, Paulette shows off her femininity by wearing her hair loose and having her nails done a bright blue.
Meet Ferb- Ferb, a sixty year old male, has been in charge of this part of the warehouse for ten years. He constantly looked around to make sure things were getting done as they should. “I run a tight ship, but in this business, it’s the only way,” he explained while showing me the sign out sheet he asks employees to sign when they take a break. “We keep the environment enjoyable, but we also gotta do what we gotta do. We gotta answer to someone. Always someone to answer to.” Ferb seems to really know his way around the business. He walked around constantly helping everyone with their job, showing them the best way to do things. He also spoke about the long hours and harsh weather, but overall seemed to be happy with his job and confident with his position. I asked Ferb if he plans on moving any higher up in the company, to which he responded “That or retirement. Whichever comes first.”
Ferb is seen wearing a outfit similar to Alfredo’s, durable blue jeans, sneakers, and a sweatshirt. This confirms my
analysis of Alfredo’s outfit being the typical outfit of practicality in a labor-based workplace. Ferb’s collared shirt and belt dress up the outfit a bit, perhaps to assert his position of leadership. I also noticed Ferb’s large watch which stands both a fashion statement and a way to keep track of time management in the warehouse, which is an essential part of Ferb’s job. The paper’s in Ferb’s hand and pen in his shirt pocket also contribute as part of his outfit, being that they show his commitment to his job.
Fashion in the Workplace:
People do not dress to impress here; rather, they work hard to find clothes that help them get the job done effectively. The general fashion sense is one of durability and practicality. I thought it would be interesting to ask the employee’s I had the chan
ce of speaking with what their dream outfit would be, in order to see how much that would differ from what they essentially were forced to wear to work. Alfredo did not pause before saying, “A custom tailed suit Or anything purple.” Paulette took some more time to think about her answer, and finally settled on, “Something with floral print. Maybe a dress. I can’t wear dresses to work here, or even a skirt. I wouldn’t mind showing a little leg once in a while.” Ferb seemed a little confused by the question and simply answered, “This.”
I also found it interesting to see how each employee brought their own flair within this larger pattern of clothes meant for labor. Alfredo’s cap had a South Beach logo, Paulette is wearing sunglasses, and Ferb’s shirt is orange. These are not necessarily par of their “uniform” but show us something about their fashion taste and/or personalities I relate to this on a personal level. Following a religious dress code that entails me wearing skirts which cover the knee and shirts which cover the upper arm, I strive to find my own individuality within the larger “uniform” of my religion.
Overall, my experience at the Sunshine Vending warehouse was an eye opening one. The employees all seemed to genuinely enjoy their jobs, while simultaneously recognizing the hard labor it entails and have immense respect for one another. Even though the employees at Sunshine’s warehouse wear somewhat of a uniform, the individuality and uniqueness in their answers give us a glimpse into their diverse fashion senses. Even if people have to dress a certain way due to practicality, a dress code, or other reasons, that does not necessarily mean that it is their ideal fashion sense. The warehouse itself is a hard-working environment, yet you can also feel a sense of comfort in the air. The colorful variety of snacks and beverages that line the shelves and floor give the warehouse a playful feel, in contrast to the visible age and wear and tear that can be observed on the warehouse itself from the outside. Spending the afternoon here made me realize there is much more behind every industry, job, and person than first meets the eye. Every person has a story to tell. They may just be waiting for someone to ask.