Robin Finn, The New York Times, Jan. 17, 2010
IF clothes make the man, what to make of a doorman in a $500 uniform that may or may not include top hat, tails, white gloves, golden epaulets, an equestrian jacket, embroidered building logos, and pants with a tuxedo stripe that is not necessarily black?
A century ago, most New York doormen were similarly attired, as throwbacks to liveried servants. These days, the regalia of the city’s thousands of doormen (women are still a rarity) varies wildly. The hipster trend downtown is uniformless; at the Empire State Building, the uniforms are dyed the precise shade of gray as the marble in the elevators.
Doormen have been around ever since the Romans coined a job title — ostiarius — for the slaves who guarded their doors. New York’s full-time doormen, who earn base pay of $31,000 to $40,000 a year plus overtime and holiday bonuses that can reach $10,000, have been the focus of a 1995 Seinfeld episode, a saucy 1997 documentary (Dree Andrea’s ”All Visitors Must Be Announced: The Lives and Loves of Doormen in New York City”) and a 2005 book (”Doormen,” by Peter Bearman). The book, by the director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy at Columbia University, concludes that uniforms, so long as they are not gaudy, can foster a feel-good relationship between tenants and doormen by making it clear who serves whom and creating an aura of crime deterrence.
The men who mind the doors do have one widespread plea: Spare us the white gloves!
“Doormen uniforms, so long as they are not gaudy, can foster a feel-good relationship between tenants and doormen.”Peter Bearman, Director of Institute for Economic Research, Columbia University