Home / Articles / Commentary / National - Jim Hightower / Wal-Mart's new look
Print this Article
Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2006 04:27 am

Wal-Mart's new look

The discount retailer imposes a preppie look on employees


The modest working-class persona is passé. Wal-Mart is on the way up!

Deciding to market to a more affluent clientele, the retailing behemoth is working up a new fancier look for its workers. Instead of the somewhat dowdy blue vests with “How May I Help You?” emblazoned on the back, the new dress code features khaki pants and navy-blue polo shirts.

Wal-Mart hired an upscale designer who sneers at the company’s old-look smocks, calling them “the lowest guppy in the pool” of retail fashion. The new polo/khaki combo, he says, “is much more business casual” than working class, asserting that Wal-Mart’s crisp preppy look “will raise the status of 1.3 million Americans” who work there.

No doubt the employees, who are paid an average of barely $17,000 a year for full-time work, would rather see their wages raised than their “status.” And some are miffed that they have to dig into their own pockets for the new-look khakis.

Let me note, though, that workers are being given one uniform choice. A big issue was whether the workers could leave the new polo shirts untucked for an even more casual feel. Yes, came the ruling from on high: “If they want to tuck it in they can,” says a spokesman. “If not, they can leave it out.” Ah . . . workplace democracy!

Meanwhile, the formerly downscale chain is also doing a merchandise makeover, stocking more expensive goods, creating a line of urban fashions, and moving so upscale that it is even advertising in Vogue magazine!

Now that Wal-Mart is selling at higher prices to higher-dollar shoppers, will it stop buying its goods on the cheap from Asian sweatshops and start paying fair wages to its workers? Nah, the bosses want a new look — not a new ethic.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.

Log in to use your Facebook account with

Login With Facebook Account

Recent Activity on IllinoisTimes


  • Tue
  • Wed
  • Thu
  • Fri
  • Sat
  • Sun
  • Mon
Get "IT" in your inbox
 Illinois Times was gratified by the number of entires that we received for the Visitors Guide Cover Art Contest. We would like to thank all of the 56 participants who submitted entries. Your eff...