Best shoes and pants for a waiter?
June 3, 2014 8:22 AM   Subscribe

Hey all. I'm starting a new job as a server on Monday, and I have to bring my own black pants and black non-slip shoes. This is my first time working in a restaurant outside of the bar or kitchen, so I'm not sure where to go (online or in person, I work in DC) to get the requisite gear, and what I should buy. United servers of MeFi--any recommendations on work pants and shoes?
posted by oneironaut to Work & Money (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If they let you and you can find them, black sneakers with no design (or black design, though I may have colored in a Swoosh or two with black Sharpie in my day...).
posted by Pax at 8:33 AM on June 3, 2014

Sketchers do a whole line of comfy, non-slip work shoes designed for food service. They're cheap monetarily and quality-wise, but they'll get you started and won't make you miserable. Plus they're relatively inoffensive in terms of styling. If you're up for spending closer to $80-$120 then spring for Doc Martens. I've been really, really happy with their 3-hole ankle boot.

Visit your local Goodwill/thrift for pants. Or hit up K-mart for a pair of Dickies. Make sure you try the Dickies on before you buy them, they tend to run slender. Spills and stuff slide right off them, and as long as you wash them inside-out they'll hold their color for quite some time.
posted by carsonb at 8:49 AM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

This Nike is exceptionally stylish and completely black. It's $65.

That's a pretty good price, there's This at Payless for $42.00.

Or these at Walmart for $19.97

Wal-Mart carries Dickies black work pants, as well as George pants.

I'd buy the best fitting most comfortable shoes I could afford, and I'd cheap out on the pants, since your chances of trashing them are pretty high.

Good luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:53 AM on June 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

For black pants you want anything that fits comfortably and will hold up to a million washings. I think I bought 90% of mine at Goodwill. Depending on where you work, those ppants will forever smell like tomato sauce or wine or whatever.

Non slip shoes, though, are more worth spending money for. My first manager actually helped us order them out of some magazine and deducted the cost out of our first paycheck.
posted by salvia at 8:55 AM on June 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Also, pro tip for when you spill something on your pants on a shit (it will happen, just a matter of time), use some black coffee on a napkin to cover up the sour cream, gravy, whatever.
When tuxedos were A Thing for servers in fancy restaurants, that trick made the pants last weeks between dry cleanings.
posted by dbmcd at 8:58 AM on June 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Everyone I know in medical and food service on-your-feet jobs swears by Dansko shoes. Might depend on the place's style, though.
posted by rhizome at 9:04 AM on June 3, 2014

I swear by MBT shoes. I often work 3 fifteen hours shifts in a row, and my feet never hurt. They take getting used to, though.

For pants, I go to Marshall's. Wherever you go, I would suggest getting polyester, because you can just wipe spills off with a damp towel.
posted by MexicanYenta at 9:10 AM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I work in a coffee shop, standing for hours. Doc Marten shoes are totally worth it. ($180 in Toronto).
posted by jb at 9:12 AM on June 3, 2014

I have SuperFeet insoles inside my Doc Martens - Docs aren't that supportive on their own.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:16 AM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Best" and "new job as a server" don't necessarily go together. Good shoes for on-your-feet professions are spendy, and if you're not 100% confident the job will work out, I'd hold off on investing.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:17 AM on June 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

My friend who runs multiple restaurants recommends Shoes for Crews. My son got a pair for his fast food job and they were not too expensive, comfortable and have worn well so far (1 year).
posted by maxg94 at 9:22 AM on June 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Walmart sells a variety of slip resistant work shoes under the Tredsafe name. I have a pair of those somewhat Chuck Taylor looking ones Ruthless Bunny posted, and they are pretty good for all day standing/walking. They're all synthetic material, so I don't expect them to last forever, but they seem to wear fairly well. The insoles are removable/replaceable if needed. These might work well, too. They're sort of Croc-like, with a slip-resistant rubber sole. If they fit your feet, they're gold. The current revised versions sold don't work for me at all, but the previous design is the most comfortable thing ever, so YMMV. Walmart also sells slip resistant shoes under the Dr Scholls brand name.

Dickies makes a wide variety of work pants in different styles and fabric weights, skinny, slim fit, relaxed, pleated, five pocket, etc. Problem is finding more than one or two styles at any particular store. Also, I find that they source pants from a variety of places, and as a result, sizing can be surprisingly inconsistent. Good return policy is a must if buying online. They are durable and relatively inexpensive, though.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:12 AM on June 3, 2014

Go to Target (I assume Columbia Heights is the closest to you), find black pants. You're going to ruin multiple pairs, so go ahead and go cheap. Marshalls downstairs may have some cheaper, so check there too.

I always wore slip-proof Doc Marten's because I think they're the most comfortable shoe ever. I still wear them in the office for the same reason. You can check out Payless (right downstairs from Target!) and see what they have. You want to check for slip-proof or something similar, because a. it's a good idea because slippery kitchen floors, b. your restaurant/bar may require it anyway.
posted by General Malaise at 10:29 AM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Skimp on the pants, spend on the shoes. Shoes for Crews, as mentioned above will be okay. Red Wings would be even better. Here are the Red Wing Stores near you. They'll measure your feet and get you a specialized fit. (Most people aren't actually right on a standard size, they're narrow or wide, or what have you. Mine are double wide, and having that accommodated feels terrific.) I repair dishwashers and handle chemicals for a living and not even that can kill my Red Wings. I typically get a year or so out of each pair.

If you're tight on money, Skechers and the like do provide cheaper short term options. But in the end, you get what you pay for. I'm certainly a lot happier buying $135 shoes that fit like a dream once every 13 or so months than I ever was paying $45-60 three times a year for shoes that fall apart quickly.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:55 AM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Shoes for Crews are really, really non-slip and that's what you need. I have used the 'non-slip' shoes from Walmart and Payless and both suck. Get some Dr. Scholl's inserts for support. Thrift store or Dickies (KMart) for black pants. You want a sufficiently high polyester content so you can avoid staining and wrinkles.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 11:14 AM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone! My only issues with Dickies is that I have found them to be stiff and uncomfortable. Maybe I should just wash them a bunch of times.
posted by oneironaut at 11:30 AM on June 3, 2014

You are going to be washing whatever pants a bunch of times because they tend to get filthy and smell like food.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:00 PM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been happiest with pants that are made of synthetics rather than cotton. Cotton will fade out to a dark grey way before the pants fail. Synthetic fabrics won't fade and will be much easier to keep stain and wrinkle-free. I like Dickies or cheap dress pants that do not contain cotton. Get dedicated pants and shoes. You will not want to wear your server clothes outside of the job as they get pretty nasty. I wouldn't spend a ton on the shoes, comfortable is a must, but they're going to get pretty filthy if you are in the kitchen doing side work, picking up, or talking with the line cooks. I preferred all-black sneakers or slightly athletic shoes that didn't look like runners. They had good support, were comfy, and held-up well. Better to get a comfortable pair that can be thrown out when they get gross.
posted by quince at 1:24 PM on June 3, 2014

Thanks, everyone. Just ordered a pair of Shoes for Crews, and will be paying a visit to Marshall's.

Come visit out at the Mad Fox Brewing Company in a couple of weeks!
posted by oneironaut at 1:24 PM on June 3, 2014

Hey oneironaut, we live not too far away and go there pretty frequently, who should we look for?
posted by echo0720 at 6:06 PM on June 3, 2014

He'll be the guy in the black pants and black non slip-on shoes, you can't miss him!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:03 AM on June 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

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