That burning question is front and center at the upcoming LCT Technology Summit.
Gabe Piro is President of Dornan Uniforms of New York City and Lawndale, CA. The company was founded in 1924 by Harry J. Dornan, and was purchased by Gabriel Piro, Gabe’s father, in the Forties Since becoming President of Dornan Uniforms, Gabe Piro has maintained the company’s position as one of the foremost retailers of chauffeur uniforms in the country, Piro recently talked with Limousine & Chauffeur about current trends in chauffeur attire.
Limousine & Chauffeur: How is a chauffeur’s “uniform” different from a three-piece suit?
Piro: You usually use the term “uniform” when all of the chauffeurs at a company are required to wear the same type and color clothes...like a black three-piece suit with a white shirt and black shoes. One of the big companies in New York uses a black three-piece suit with a black and silver striped tie. Another company requires a black blazer with gray slacks and a black tie. Other companies don’t require chauffeurs to wear matching clothes as long as they wear a dark-colored three-piece suit, or blazer outfit.
Limousine & Chauffeur: Do some companies have their name or logo on their uniform?
Piro: Some of them do. Bermuda Limousine has its logo on the blazer.
Limousine & Chauffeur: How is a blazer outfit different from a three-piece suit?
Piro: A blazer can be bought separately. It has brass buttons and a patch pocket. A good blazer outfit has one coat, one vest, and six pairs of pants.
Limousine & Chauffeur: What is the most distinctive uniform you know of?
Piro: We had one company that wore kelly green blazers with green hats. Their chauffeurs didn’t really care for that.
Limousine & Chauffeur: Are blue and black uniforms equally popular?
Piro: Blue is becoming more and more popular, but black is probably still the most common color for chauffeur clothing. If you ask the general public what color chauffeurs wear...the majority would probably say black.
Limousine & Chauffeur: Is there a basic difference in chauffeur dress between the East and West Coasts?
Piro: In my experience, chauffeur dress is more relaxed on the West Coast.
Limousine & Chauffeur: Do you stock ties and other accessories that allow a limousine company to be distinctive?
Piro: We do a lot of special ordering for companies and individuals, and we keep some striped ties in stock. If there is a larger company that is using a special hat or a special logo, we’ll keep that on hand.
Limousine & Chauffeur: Can you put logos on coats?
Piro: In New York we do it right on the premises. On the West Coast we have arrangements made.
Limousine & Chauffeur: Can you order pins or tie tacks with company logos?
Piro: We do some of that on the East Coast but it’s not really too common.
Limousine & Chauffeur: How about chauffeur’s name badges?
Piro: That’s not really a big thing. You don’t want the individual chauffeur’s image brought out over the company’s image. The company is the most important thing. You have a lot of chauffeurs who might be with a different company tomorrow. You want to project the company’s image, not the individual’s image.
Usually, the chauffeur will give customers a card with his name on it. He does that, number one, as are minder for the future and, number two, so they can remember the chauffeur’s name. If the chauffeur is wearing a name badge, the customer in the back of the car won’t be able to see it. It’s easier if they have a card.
Limousine & Chauffeur: Are black patent leather shoes common among chauffeurs?
Piro: They are on the East Coast. Our West Coast operation is really too new to have any figures to go by. On the East Coast, that’s probably the most popular shoe we sell. It’s got good support, stands up, doesn’t have to be polished, laces up straight, and you can wipe it with a damp cloth.
The disadvantage to that shoe is that if you get a scuff it’s going to show. What you can do is take a black magic marker and cover the scuff. I’ve sold those not only to chauffeurs, but also to caterers and police. We’ve never had any complaints on the shoe itself.
Limousine & Chauffeur: Do the bigger limousine companies provide uniforms for their drivers?
Piro: There are all different methods. At most limousine companies, the chauffeur is responsible for the purchase of his own goods. Some of the bigger ones have an account with us.
Limousine & Chauffeur: Do companies not provide uniforms because of chauffeur turnover?
Piro: I would tend to think that would be the reason. Also, if a chauffeur buys their own hat, for example, they take care not to lose it.
Limousine & Chauffeur: Are your clothes more durable than those you might get in department store?
Piro: Number one, department stores do not gear toward the conservative style that a chauffeur normally wears. For example, it is very difficult to find a solid black suit.
Plus, we have all-polyester fabrics in addition to our wool blends. All-polyester suits are more durable and wrinkle-resistant than blended fabrics. Blended suits are good for dress use but, with a chauffeur who sits in a car for twelve hours a day, polyester is better. Wool is a soft material and, in two to three months with any kind of use, the pants are going to become shiny and then they’ll wear away. Polyester stands up against anything.
I had one fellow come in the store and tell me that his suit wouldn’t stand up – his lining was torn out and the seams were open. Then he told me he wanted to buy another one which I thought was really strange. As he tried another one on in the dressing room, I looked in our records and found he had bought the suit six and a half year before. He had been wearing that same suit five to six days a week, fifty weeks out of the year.
Limousine & Chauffeur: Should polyester clothes be dry cleaned?
Piro: Yes. They will stand up better if they’re dry cleaned.
Limousine & Chauffeur: What fabric do you recommend for a shirt?
Piro: The most popular shirt right now is sixty percent cotton and forty percent polyester. They’re wash and wear, and they stand up to use. Our shirt is no more durable than any other shirt you’d buy, but we give special prices to the limousine industry.
Limousine & Chauffeur: What do women chauffeurs usually wear?
Piro: Now that a greater number of women are becoming chauffeurs, they should start seeing a wider selection of clothes. We carry blazer outfits for women which include a jacket, a vest, and a skirt or slacks. We also have a woman’s tuxedo.
Limousine & Chauffeur: Do many women chauffeurs wear a tuxedo?
Piro: I think women might be more inclined to wear a tuxedo than men because there’s less variety for them to wear Right now, there isn’t a woman’s three-piece suit available to us at a reasonable price.
Limousine & Chauffeur: What else is there to know about the selection or upkeep of a chauffeur uniform?
Piro: I would recommend that limousine companies stay with conservative uniforms and darker colors. Blue and black are colors that anybody can wear. It doesn’t matter what color hair or skin they have. Anybody can look good in navy blue or black. That’s probably the best way to go.
Limousine & Chauffeur: What chauffeur accessories do you carry and how are your items, like umbrellas, different from those that might be found in a department store?
Piro: Department stores are not going to carry large black umbrellas because the general public doesn’t want them. The closest thing you’ll find to our umbrella is a golf umbrella, but those usually come in loud colors.
Limousine & Chauffeur: Can you put a company’s logo on an umbrella?
Piro: Logos can be done, but manufacturers don’t want to deal with less than a hundred of those.
Limousine & Chauffeur: What other kinds of special order items can you supply?
Piro: When Limousine & Chauffeur Magazine first came out, we advertised in it and started getting requests for the old-fashioned style, of chauffeur uniform. We ended up going back, finding all the old patterns, and making them. It’s not an easy thing to do because you’re using today’s patterns to make a uniform from 30 years ago. We had to change a few things, such as the stand-up collar, so that it would have the old look but still be serviceable for chauffeurs now. It would be too hot to wear during summer in places like Florida, Texas, and California. In warm climates, you would have to go to the old-fashioned summer uniform which would be a four-button double-breasted coat. Another problem we’re having right now is that nobody can get the old style chauffeurs boot. We suggest that people get a riding boot.
Limousine & Chauffeur: Is there a particular kind of company that wants that kind of uniform?
Piro: Basically, you’ll have a company with a Rolls-Royce, a Bentley, or antique cars. It’s really a show uniform that you wouldn’t want to wear every day.
Limousine & Chauffeur: Did the Dornan Chauffeur Kit come about because of a request?
Piro: We have had a lot of requests for different things. I also got some ideas by listening to Sherrie Van Vliet of Executive Chauffeuring School. We’re trying to keep to the basic things that every chauffeur could use.
Limousine & Chauffeur: Do you carry beepers?
Piro: We stay away from the electronics area because we’re not equipped to service that kind of thing. We basically stick to chauffeur uniforms. We try to help chauffeurs “dress for success.”
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