Who Needs a Runway? Amtrak Uniform Fashion Trends

First Amtrak Acela Uniforms1999 Amtrak Ticket Agent

With New York Fashion Week right around the corner, we got to thinking that the views haven’t been the only thing to turn heads during our 43-year history. Thanks to a few bold designers and some even braver employees, the history of the Amtrak uniform is a fascinating and sometimes funny one!

When the company was founded in 1971, the focus was on the patriotic branding of the newly formed railroad. Designer Bill Atkinson used bold reds in his designs, and the company even shared sketches with employees. See what Atkinson thought of the new look.

The original Amtrak uniforms included a variety of looks. But none was quite as bold as the hotpants. Yes, passenger service representatives (sometimes called “train hostesses”) could wear hotpants or long skirts depending on the season.

Retro Amtrak UniformsBy the time the late 1970s rolled around, it was time for a new look to accompany the new long-distance train equipment joining to the company’s fleet. This time the focus was on comfort with both men and women getting updated looks that were bluer than the previous uniforms.

Manufactured by the Grief Companies, which also made clothing for Ralph Lauren and Perry Ellis, the next round of uniforms were a sleek blue and gray. During that time, the uniform guide even encouraged employees to go for a more professional, muted look. See the types of tips included in the guide.

Next up was designer Stan Herman, who had worked with brands like FedEx and McDonald’s. He was brought on to create uniforms for Amtrak’s newest Acela Express line between Boston and Washington in late 1999. The uniforms included gray jackets for men and women, turquoise knit vests, chiffon scarves and pants with cargo pockets.

Amtrak Ticket AgentThat look didn’t last long, however. By 2006, it was back to navy blue again, this time with a military-inspired look. In 2000, we added color-coded epaulets to reflect specific job functions. An epaulet is a small strip of fabric on the shoulder. Today, assistant conductors wear a navy blue epaulet. Once promoted to a conductor, the epaulets change to navy blue with teal stripes.

Most importantly, the iconic vests and gold pocket watches of past railroads are long gone. Today’s conductor uniforms for men and women are the ultimate travel gear and include pockets for iPhones, which they use to check-in customers and offer feedback to the mechanical department.

If all this fashion talk has you inspired to see NYC's catwalks for yourself, check out our Northeast Regional or Acela Express services. Both take you right to the center of the City and ensure the only runway you see is designer!

Which Amtrak uniform is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below!

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