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FASHION

Way Cooler Look Than at the Burger Joints

May 22, 1997|JEANNINE STEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

They look like they belong on the set of "Beach Blanket Bingo" rather than in a mall, but one thing's for sure: Hot-Dog-on-a-Stick uniforms are the hippest things around.

The red, white, blue and yellow vertical-striped knit tanks, boxy red shorts and sky-high striped caps are the epitome of unpretentious retro, evoking carefree California summers, fast convertibles and suntan oil without an SPF.

They are the Annette and Frankiest of fast-food uniforms, impossible to ignore during the wait for a nut-brown, batter-dipped dog and fresh lemonade. Virtually unchanged for 30 years, they give the company a lock on cool, as well as provoke comments.

"People will ask, 'Do you get extra to wear your uniform?' " says 24-year-old Kellie Hancock, a co-manager who's been wearing hers for eight years. "Others say, 'Those are really cool,' " especially amid the demand for '60s throwbacks.

Everyone wants one at Halloween, adds area advisor Renee Page, 23. "And when I'm out people will say, 'Look, it's the hot dog lady!' You really do stand out. If a lot of us are together for a store outing, sometimes people think we're a cheerleading squad or a traveling soccer team."

Then there's the really big question: How do they keep long hair up in those caps?

"It's easy," Hancock contends, doffing her hat to demonstrate: "I put my hair up in a ponytail and wrap it around in a bun on top and then put my hat on."

Dave Barham, Hot-Dog-on-a-Stick's late founder, created the uniforms, encouraging input from the "hotdoggers" and other staffers.

"Through the years Dave tried to stay very fashionable in the design," explains Veeda Lisle, publicist for the 51-year-old Solana Beach company, which has 100 U.S. locations. "The colors were reflective of the fun, cheery, bright concept of the store--like you were going to a fair and wanted to have a good time. We say it's all-American with a splash of lemonade."

Barham went through a slew of color permutations and styles, including pedal pushers, polka-dot blouses and matching berets, hats resembling ruffled lampshades, striped socks, shorter shorts, suede boots, long sleeves, short sleeves, collars and logo T-shirts.

Male hotdoggers, traditionally outnumbered by women, have always been in sync, if not as splashy. Today they wear T-shirts with horizontal stripes and shorts. Employees pay no fee for the outfits.

The distinctive hats are modeled after jockeys' caps. "Dave was an avid admirer of racing," Lisle says, "and he took the concept of their caps and elaborated on that. His became a little bit taller."

Says Hancock: "People ask all the time, 'Will you ever change your uniforms?' We don't want to. This was Dave's pride and joy, this uniform. I couldn't imagine wearing anything different."

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