I wrote this after visiting the Hooters in Chinatown in college –my first (and only) time at one of the restaurants. Yes, this is a little old, but I found Hooters to be a pretty timeless topic.
She leaves very little to the imagination when bending down–a motion that happens again, and again and again. Wiping a table; picking up a menu from the floor; reaching to give a customer a beer.
It’s certainly an intentional look, but not in a personal preference, thin-young-thing-likes-to-wear-short-shorts kind of a way. It’s institutionally intentional. It’s the whole point. It’s Hooters, after all.
She wears the uniform–tight white tank top, barely there but strikingly orange shorts, nude tights, thick white socks and white tennis shoes that look like part of Barbie’s aerobics wardrobe. It’s certainly not trendy, fashionable or even indicating an attempt to keep with the times. And judging by the photos on the wall, modernizing isn’t a priority. Aside from the hair-sprayed and crimped hair, the Hooters squad in the 1980-something picture on the wall looks just like the one stepping around now.
She approaches the end of a table of thirty-something men and smiles with her eyes and her lips–no teeth. “Hi boys,” she says. “What can I get you?” It’s a standard greeting for the all-male bunches–the premier clientele, but surprisingly, not the most numerous. Definitely not strippers, not quite cocktail waitresses and certainly not typical servers, Hooters girls seem to be in a league of their own. They look more like cheerleaders, especially with the touchdown and field goal background noises.
On a fall Saturday afternoon, the Notre Dame/Michigan game plays on most televisions bordering the restaurant. In front of the big screen TV is a long table where a family sits: five children, two of them very small, two parents and a grandmother. Baskets of food pass up and down, requests for more lemonade are made and the waitress shuttles back and forth. More drink for grandma. More food for the little one.
Co-ed groups of college students dot the room and the waitress approaches them with a “hey guys”–just like the girl a few seats down in English class would. A large, but tame group celebrating a bachelor party occupies another end of the restaurant. As they pay their check and ready to leave, the waitress and another approach the bachelor, each take a hand, and lead him on top of a chair in the middle of the room. All the other Hooters girls gather round as they lead a song with lyrics that go something like, “It’s too bad he’s off the market, because isn’t he so cute.”
Hooters is kind of like Disney Land. Or Las Vegas. Or a Halloween party. It has that alternate universe feel, but yet it looks like a Midwestern basement. Wood panel walls, framed photos all around, sports paraphernalia, bright street signs that look like debauchery souvenirs–except these ones say “Caution: Blondes thinking.”
The restaurant’s slogan is “delightfully tacky yet unrefined,” and with the waitress bending down to pick up a dust pan, it seems like it’s been that way for years.
Home page image by Flickr user straw sandals.