Qantas uniform designed by senior steward Stewart Baker

Contributed by: Qantas Heritage Collection

Uniform for Qantas Flight Service Director designed by Stewart Baker Flight Service Director and Steward's uniform designed by Stewart Baker Flight Service Director uniform designed by Stewart Baker Flight Service Director uniform designed by Stewart Baker Flight Service Director uniform designed by Stewart Baker. Side view. Stewart Baker uniform, back view Qantas logo on left breast pocket, Stewart Baker uniform Qantas promotion featuring cabin crew in the Captain Cook Lounge on a 747 wearing uniforms designed by Stewart Baker, 1970s Qantas promotion featuring Stewart Baker uniforms, mid 1970s Flight Service Director's tie Flight Servicec Director's tie featuring closed velcro attachment FlightService Director's tie featuring  open velcro attachment Flight Service Director badge worn directly above Qantas logo on left breast pocket Manufacturer's label inside yellow shirt Peter Herro manufacturer's label inside trousers of Stewart Baker uniform
  • Australian dress register ID:

    609
  • Owner:

    Qantas Heritage Collection
  • Owner registration number:

    Blazer: QHC-005369, Shirt: QHC-005371, Trousers: QHC-005372, Tie: QHC-005370
  • Date range:

    1973 - 1987
  • Place of origin:

    Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

    Male
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Object information

Significance statement

The spectacularly colourful uniform worn by Qantas Flight Service Directors from 1973 - 1987 symbolised the optimistic mood prevalent in Australia as it forged an identity independent of its colonial past. The vibrant burnt orange of the blazer and yellow shirt alluded to the bright Australian sunlight and desert landscapes, thereby breaking with the tradition for male cabin crew to wear sombre uniforms reminiscent of British shipping stewards.

The post-war baby boomer generation enjoyed unprecedented influence throughout the western world and Qantas was keen to promote a modern, youthful image that resonated with this demographic. Therefore, Qantas management  listened to the requirements and opinions of its youthful cabin crew and commissioned uniforms designed by 33 year old Senior Steward, Stewart Baker. Baker deliberately designed fashion forward uniforms in different colours for different crew ranks that reflected the informality of the period. For the first time, a cap was not part of the uniform.

Close examination of the uniform's necktie provides insight into a serious problem faced by the aviation industry between 1969 and 1978 when there were more than 400 hijackings. To prevent strangulation by hijackers, cabin crew neckties featured a hidden velcro strip at the back of the neck. The velcro attachment would release immediately if someone attempted to strangle a flight steward with his tie.      

Another difficulty faced by the aviation world at this time was a steep rise in oil prices which increased operating costs. Combined with inflation, this placed Qantas under considerable financial strain. The airline managed to overcome this by aggressively marketing low-cost excursion fares and adding extra seats, whereby seating on 747 'jumbo-jets' was increased to 10 across in economy.

Despite these difficulties, international air travel was becoming a reality for middle class Australians. The growth in traffic on the 'kangaroo route' from Sydney to London can be seen when passenger numbers from 1971-2 (40,000) are compared with those of the year ending in March 1975 (250,000). At this time, a return economy fare to London was $1,202.85.

Complementing the colourful uniforms worn by male cabin crew were the equally vibrant Pucci uniforms worn by flight stewardesses. Photographs of Qantas cabin crews of the era are a riot of colour, reflecting a period of optimism in which Australia was consciously breaking ties with the old world and defining itself as a new, multicultural nation.     

 

Author: Julie McFarland, 24th August, 2017.

Description

The wool/polyester burnt orange blazer is tailored and slim-fitting with front darts from chest to waist. It has a 300 mm split at the back from the waist to the hem and features broad lapels and two detachable gold, plastic buttons at the centre front opening. The buttons are embossed with a map of Australia. There are three front patch pockets - two at the hips and one at left breast. The breast pocket is embriodered with a yellow Qantas flying kangaroo in a circle. A gold name badge belonging to Flight service Director, Ed Ronsinvale is positioned above the Qantas logo. At the left of the badge is a Qantas flying kangaroo. There are also two internal breast pockets, inserted into the lining. The jacket is fully lined in nude-toned synthetic fabric.

The yellow polyester/cotton shirt is slim fitting and has long sleeves. It features a patch pocket at the left breast and seven white plastic buttons down the centre opening. Cuffs are buttoned with matching white plastic buttons. (Button missing from left cuff).

The grey polyester/wool trousers are pleated at the waist (two front pleats at each side) and are slightly tapered. Diagonal slit pockets sit at the hips and there is another slit pocket at the back right. The back pocket is secured by a grey plastic button. The waistband features nine belt loops and has a tab, attached by grey plastic buttons, at each side. The zip is metal. Above the zip, inside the waistband, is a metal hook and eye.

There is some damage to the trousers: a white mark - mould? below the waist band on the right side. The same discolouration can be found on the right back.

The polyester tie is striped diagonally in burgundy, grey and cream and has a velcro attachment at the back of the neck. This unusual feature was incorporated into the deign of the tie to prevent strangulation by a hijacker, as hijackings were a serious concern during the 1970s and 1980s.

History and Provenance

Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?

The mid 1970s was a period when international air travel was becoming a reality for middle class Australians. Qantas' aggressively marketed low-cost excursion fares to Asia and Japan, New Zealand, Hawaii and North America were popular, and despite competition from Asian airlines, Qantas remained the preferred carrier for most Australians on the London/Sydney 'Kangaroo Route'. The growth in traffic on this route can be seen when passenger numbers from 1971-2 (40,000) are compared with those of the year ending in March 1975 (250,000). At this time, a return economy fare to London was $1,202.85.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

The Qantas uniform designed by Senior Steward Stewart Baker was conceived during the period of the Whitlam Labor government (1972-75)  - a period characterised by Whitlam's desire to transform Australia from a backward, parochial nation to a progressive state with an international focus. 

The social revolutions that had occurred throughout the western world during the 1960s continued into the Whitlam era and throughout the 70s. In Australia, views about women's roles, sexuality, the environment, immigration and war were being transformed. It was during this period that women received equal pay for equal work, Australian troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, university education became free and indigenous peoples made progress regarding land rights.

While these developments were often viewed as positive, especially by the young, this was also an era characterised by high unemployment and inflation. Many people believed the Whitlam government had tried to do too much too quickly and had mishandled the economy. Whitlam's government was dismissed by the Governor General in November, 1975, to be replaced by a Liberal government headed by Malcolm Fraser. 

Patterns of immigration to Australia were changing. The White Australia Policy, in operation from 1901 and designed to prevent non-white people from migrating to Australia, was abolished in 1974. This opened the door to Asian immigrants - especially those fleeing from Vietnam after the war and to those escaping conflicts in the Middle East. European immigration declined during this period.

Within the aviation world, it was a difficult time because the oil producing countries lifted their prices, which increased operating costs. Combined with inflation, this placed Qantas under considerable financial strain. The airline tried to overcome this by adding to seat capacity, whereby seating on 747s was increased to 10 across in economy. 

Not only was this a time of financial stress for the aviation industry, it was also a dangerous one, as there were more than 400 hijackings between 1969 and 1978. The hijack threat impacted upon the attire of Qantas Flight Stewards. Instead of their neckties being secured by the traditional  Windsor knot, velcro was used to keep them in place. The velcro attachment would release immediately if someone attempted to strangle a Flight Steward with his tie.      

Where did this information come from?

Black, Prudence, 'The Flight Attendant's Shoe', University of New South Wales press Ltd, Sydney, 2011.

Qantas Heritage Collection files.

This garment has been exhibited

Currently exhibited at Terminal 3, Mascot at the Qantas Heritage Collection.

  1. Place of origin:

    Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    The uniform is owned by the Qantas Heritage Collection, Sydney Airport. The jacket was possibly worn by Flight Service Director, Ed Ronsisvale, as his name badge is attached to the garment. The shirt and tie appear to have been worn, but there is nothing to identify the wearer. It is evident that the trousers were never issued to a member of staff, as the manufacturer's cardboard swing tag is still attached to the front right, just below the waistband.

  3. Worn by:

    The jacket was possibly worn by Flight Service Director Ed Ronsisvale. Ronsisvale is currently Operations Manager for Qantas Aircrew Club.

  4. Occasion(s):

    In the air. Currently worn by the Promotions Team at Qantas promotions.

  5. Place:

    International Qantas Route network.

  6. Designed by:

    Qantas Senior Steward, Stewart Baker from Sydney who was 33 years old at the time the uniform was launched. 

  7. Made by:

    Jacket made by Swedex of Sydney, shirt made by F.J. Sobb of Lakemba, Sydney, trousers made by Peter Herro, Sydney and tie made by John and Lois Ties of Erskineville, Sydney. 

  8. Made for:

    155 Qantas Flight Service Directors.

Trimmings / Decoration

Embroidery

On jacket breast pocket: machine embroidered Qantas logo of a flying winged kangaroo inside a circle. This logo was used by Qantas from 1968 until 1984 when the kangaroo lost its wings, became more stylised and was placed in a triangle.

Fibre / Weave

Jacket is wool/polyester, trousers are wool/polyester, shirt is polyester/cotton and tie is polyester. 

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

The garments are entirely machine sewn and were made locally. The jacket was produced by Swedex of Sydney, the shirt was manufactured by F.J. Sobb of 876 Canterbury Rd, Lakemba in Sydney, the tie was made by John and Lois ties of 221 Sydney Park Road, Erskineville, Sydney and the trousers were made by Peter Herro of Sydney. It was important that the Australian national carrier was seen to be using local manufacturers.

Label

No manufacturer's label in the jacket. Manufacturer's label in the shirt: "Styled by F.J. Sobb/Polyester cotton/Australian made". Cardboard swing tag attached to trousers: "Created by Peter Herro". 

  1. Hand sewn
  2. Machine sewn
  3. Knitted
  4. Other

Cut

The cut of all components was slim-line, as was fashionable in the 1970s. The trousers flare very slightly towards the bottom.

  1. Bias
  2. Straight

Fastenings

The two gold buttons at the front of the jacket are plastic. There are seven small, opaque/white buttons down the front of the shirt and one button on each cuff. The trouser zip and hook and eye are metal.  

  1. Hook and eye
  2. Lacing
  3. Buttons
  4. Zip
  5. Drawstring

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

There is some stiffening from the shoulders to the chest at the front of the jacket. There is no padding on the shoulders. 

Measurements

blazer shirt tie trousers
Girth
Neck 520 mm 360 mm
Chest 1070 mm 1040 mm
Waist 980 mm 980 mm 940 mm
Hip 1020 mm 1010 mm 1000 mm
Cuff 320 mm 250 mm 450 mm
Hem circumference 1020 mm 1120 mm
Vertical
Front neck to hem 490 mm 680 mm
Front waist to hem 350 mm 310 mm 1180 mm
Back neck to hem 810 mm 850 mm
Back waist to hem 370 mm 330 mm 1210 mm
Sleeve length 650 mm 610 mm
Inside leg 890 mm
Outside leg 930 mm
Horizontal
Neck to sleeve head 160 mm 160 mm
Cross back 440 mm 420 mm
Underarm to underarm 520 mm 500 mm
Convert to inches

Tie measures 144 mm (length) and 70 mm at widest point.

Dress Themes

The Stewart Baker uniform was the first significant uniform overhaul for Qantas stewards since 1947. By the early 1970s, the military-style uniforms worn by male cabin crew for nearly a quarter of a century had become dated. Baker deliberately set out to design new uniforms that reflected the informality of the 1970s and the youthful age of Qantas flight crews. The vibrant uniforms with their bright jackets and shirts and flared trousers succeeded in creating a much more contemporary image for the airline. Desire to overturn tradition was also represented by the absence of a cap. This was the first Qantas uniform to omit this accessory.   

Additional material

Other related objects

Qantas Pucci uniform worn by Flight Hostesses from 1975 - 1987.

Condition

The back of the blazer is damaged by several flecks of black ink that appear to have come from a pen.

Mould damage

There is some damage to trousers: an unidentified white mark below waist band on the right side. The same discolouration can be found on the right back.

State

  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Poor

Damage

  1. Stained
  2. Worn
  3. Mould stains
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