Black Fades to Black

When Blade Haddock, a Texas restaurant consultant, opened the Fort Worth tapas bar called giant this year, he dressed staffers in pearl-snap button-downs covered with bleach-white white aprons.

Not so long ago, such a get-up would have seemed old-fashioned. White wraparound aprons, the traditional garb not only for waiters, but also for fishmongers, butchers, and dentists, were viewed as unhip by restaurants catering to young people with disposable incomes. In the ‘90s and until recently, many restaurants took a nightclub approach to atmosphere: dim lighting, a high-tempo rave soundtrack, and waitstaff clad in all black. “Dark tones are just another way to take the waiter out of the dining experience,” says Haddock. Restaurant owners now approach design with an eye toward transparency and casualness.

The Alain Ducasse restaurant miX in Las Vegas, at the Hotel at Mandalay Bay, dresses its servers in hefty canvas aprons.

“It’s meant to be fun and by all means not intimidating,” said miX assistant general manager Steve Mobley. Likewise, Union, a contemporary American restaurant in Seattle, added a large white apron to the staff’s uniforms in September “to give the staff a cleaner look,” according to one floor manager. That is, if the restaurant itself is clean. Every smidgen of schmutz in the room will land on a white apron.

Atlanta’s Ecco features light-gray aprons, and D.C.’s Acadiana outfits servers in chef coats. The get-up sends an earthy “Can I help you?” message to patrons, as opposed to the cooler-than-thou minimalist fashion runway vibe of hipster street clothes.

“You don’t have to provide world-class cuisine and be stuffy about it,” says miX’s Mobley.