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A Cast Member's Take on the Disney Look

Disney Cast Member

Nose rings are a no...and other ruminations on the restrictions of the Disney Look.

A friend recently asked me if she would be able to get a job at Walt Disney World with her new nose ring, to which the answer was an instant and resounding no. The other friends in our group, Orlando natives all, were shocked. We were standing in the middle of Epcot, and as I glanced around at the clean cut Cast Members manning every Food and Wine kiosk, I realized that the Disney look is something I’ve come to take for granted, and perhaps something not every visitor consciously notices.

When it comes to the Disney Look, the rules are strict and unwavering. Every Cast Member receives a Look Book as part of orientation. If you show up to your Traditions class in absolutely anything that doesn’t adhere to the guidelines, you’re sent straight home. A few examples of the things Cast Members are not permitted to have include:

  • Eyeglasses or sunglasses with logos or bright colors
  • Hair covering the ears or shirt collar for men
  • Fingernails that extend past the tip of the finger for men, or more than a quarter of an inch past the fingertip for women
  • Artificially dyed hair that does not look natural
  • Shaving of the head or eyebrows for women
  • Makeup in anything other than a neutral color
  • Nail polish in anything other than a plain, neutral color

It wasn’t until 2012 that male Cast Members were allowed to have facial hair. Though facial hair is permitted within certain guidelines, it must be fully grown in. If a Cast Member decides he wants to grow a mustache, he must take vacation time to do so, which is exactly what many people did when the new rules were passed last year.

Disney enforces strict appearance guidelines for its staff.

This brief overview of the Disney Look doesn’t even begin to cover all the rules that Cast Members have to adhere to. Anything beyond a single ear piercing for women is prohibited, as are spacers in any body piercing while you’re on stage. And don’t think you can hide an extra ear piercing with carefully styled hair, or keep a tongue spacer concealed by keeping your mouth shut. Rule breakers that we were, my friends and I tried whatever tricks we could think of. Eventually our piercings just grew back after managers helpfully reminded us to remove them before we went on stage every day.

As for tattoos, though you’ll never see them on a Cast Member, they’re often there. Ever notice someone with a long sleeve costume in summer, even though their coworkers are wearing a short sleeve option? Chances are good there’s a tattoo hiding under there. Summer heat and humidity is brutal down here, even to native Floridians. Most people don’t dress like that just to stay warm and cozy.

The other option available to Cast Members with tattoos is to pile on a whole lot of makeup and hope you don’t sweat it off. The local Wal Mart that College Program Cast Members can catch a bus to even has tattoo cover-up makeup on an end cap.

If, like my friends, you’re thinking that all this seems to be a bit much, you’re probably forgetting that every last detail of the Disney environment is carefully orchestrated to provide you with a world that’s set apart from reality. The outside world simply isn’t visible from within one of Walt Disney World parks. This is wholly intentional. The fantasy of Disney is painstakingly cultivated here.

Even guests are expected to maintain a certain level of respect for their fellow visitors. Show up in an obscene shirt and you’ll be asked to change or turn it inside out. You might get away with a skimpy bikini top at other Orlando parks, but Disney will oh-so-politely request you put your clothes back on. This is a family park, after all, and you’re making Mickey blush.

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There are 46 comments.

I wish Disney wasn't so afraid of offending people. Heck, it already happens all the time. XD

It's not that Disney is afraid of offending people. It's that Disney holds itself to a higher standard. It thrives to set the bar and then exceed that. It's the culture of the company and why Disney is a worldwide, household name. Guests who come to the Disney parks from all over the world expect that level of service. Will people be offended? Of course, you can't please everyone. But Disney Looks presents a neutral, approachable image that is as inoffensive as possible. Cast Members are the face of the company, and Disney wants to make sure that face is a clean and smiling one.

fuck your standard.

Amen and double Amen. We are to be an example, of a good work ethic. I really feel that Disney is the last of humanity, in the efforts of world peace.

It's not about offending someone. It's about staying authentic to the theme. Would you find someone with a nose ring on Main Street in turn-of-the-century America? No.

It's not about offending someone. It's about staying authentic to the theme. Would you find someone with a nose ring on Main Street in turn-of-the-century America? No.

"You might get away with a skimpy bikini top at other Orlando parks, but Disney will oh-so-politely request you put your clothes back on. This is a family park, after all, and you’re making Mickey blush."

Your parks aren't the only ones with guidelines we expect to be followed.

They essentially have to appear like most businessmen or professionals in their physical appearence because they are professionals. It is completely realistic to say that many castmembers plan to work at Disney as a longterm career. Their attire may not be a business suit but they do have strict uniform guidelines they must adhere to just like many other companies. Not many companies will allow piercings or tatoos to be visible on their employees so why would Disney feel expected to?

I'm a teacher, and I don't feel like this is that drastic or extreme considering this type of "clean" look is required and expected of me as well. I feel that Disney just wants their cast members to appear professional, especially the castmembers who are interacting with park guests during all their job duties. Looking professional helps others trust you and feel that you know what you are talking about. I have never once questioned at my many visits to Disney whether a person was a Disney employee or not. It's obvious, and that's the point. The appearence is a simple, yet iconic, look and is just one of the many details of the park that allows it to run as smoothely as it does.

That is a great tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.
Brief but very precise information… Appreciate your sharing this one.
A must read post!

As someone who started working at Disneyland in the 1990s, I have to say that the Disney Look has gotten way too lax from what it used to be. When mustaches were later allowed after 2000, the park(s) never really enforced their "fully grown" and "neatly trimmed" requirement. Unable to get a full grasp on the mustache situation, they moved forward anyway and allowed beards which had the same requirement as mustaches. Again, cast members were showing up to work with face stubble and overgrowth. Used to be that any facial hair growth got a cast member sent backstage to shave.

Inappropriate hairstyles come up from time to time. Not long ago, I saw a cast member at the Tiki Room who looked like he just got out of bed with messy long hair, and a half grown in beard.

Other factors that management simply ignores are sunglasses. Mirrored lenses, logos, colored frames... Although not part of the Disney Look, is something that is now quietly allowed.

The list goes on... Cast members wearing costumes that are too baggy is also another big offender.

This article makes it seem that Disney still upholds their strict appearance standards. That is no longer the case. I thought it was bad seeing standards slip at Disneyland. It's actually worse at Walt Disney World. Not at the resort hotels so much, but among those who work in operations such as the parks and transportation.

The baggy costumes are because they don't order enough. While I quit Disney several years ago I frequently had to get costumes that were larger than my size. I really couldn't get any that were smaller than my size.

The baggy costumes are because they don't order enough. While I quit Disney several years ago I frequently had to get costumes that were larger than my size. I really couldn't get any that were smaller than my size.

The baggy costumes are because they don't order enough. While I quit Disney several years ago I frequently had to get costumes that were larger than my size. I really couldn't get any that were smaller than my size.

The baggy costumes are because they don't order enough. While I quit Disney several years ago I frequently had to get costumes that were larger than my size. I really couldn't get any that were smaller than my size.

True, but in my experience with the company, you also have cast members intentionally wearing baggy clothes with the waist of their pants around their butt.

I am a bus driver there, I have been there for almost 2 years, there have been a lot of changes, I have mixed feelings on the unions I think they had there time now they are just a bunch of parasites, they do absolutely nothing for anyone the issue that need to be addressed.

I just want to say, the guest putting on an appearance for other visitors is mostly Magic Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Epcot, but you can mostly get away with a bikini top in Animal Kingdom I've seen it before. You won't find the staff asking you to cover your bikini at Blizzard Beach, or Typhoon Lagoon though. I know that should be implied, but when you talk about the park on a whole, you should specify the strictest parts by name as just specifying Disney World, leaves out the 6 parks it hosts.

I think the Disney look is SO important and I didn't realise that until I worked there. At the time it felt like a bit of a punishment with the 3 miniscule holes in each ear and microscopic hole in my nose I really thought it was no big deal. I toned down my makeup and gave up the crazy plums and auburn colours I decided to dye my hair and by heck was it worth it.
Although, It wasn't until I was visiting an inferior Orlando park, saw a wannabe gangsta with his low slung pants, diamond earrings, extremely gelled hair and designer stubble, rabbiting away on his cell phone that made me realize nothing Disney does is by mistake and the Disney look is SO important. I even found it off putting when I returned for a vacation in 2012 to find that they had relaxed the facial hair rules, it just didn't look right. I'm by no means a prude. I'm tattooed, pierced and I don't remember what my natural hair colour is but none of this is as important to me as working in the most magical place on earth.
It's a certain je be sais qoui that makes all the difference and every cast member looks approachable. Since I worked there I realise having piercings, crazy hair and tatoos isn't as rebellious or cool as I once thought. It makes all the difference to have a friendly approachable cast member who you don't have to strain your eyes to see under all the theatrical adornments!

I am actually quite glad that Disney has some of their standards. To me, personally, a person with facial piercings (or even multiple ear piercings) just looks like trash. There is nothing appealing or attractive about that look when people do that, and I really hate it when people have the top parts of their ears pierced, or a piercing in their stomach too. Good that we don't have to see that garbage in a Disney cast member. I just wish we didn't have to see that in anyone....period.

While I understand and support Disney's look, I can't and don't support calling other people names because of their personal choices. There are some who believe a woman is garbage if she shows her hair in public. Or if she wears a skirt above the knee. Or pants. I believe that a person can only be considered garbage if their actions harm others.

I did not call anyone a name because of their personal choices. I stated my own opinion, which is that they look "like" trash. I didn't say they were. There is a difference.

Kudos to you on understanding Disney's need for " the Disney Look" We do need to be different , just like our parks are different (better)
Congratulations for speaking out. I hope you come back to Disney.

When I was hired at WDW in 1988 I was told I would have to dye my hair one natural color. When I told them my hair was completely natural (there were highlights from being in the sun) they said I would still have to dye it. So I dyed it red. They didn't say it had to be MY natural color.

Let's not leave "bad teeth" off of the Disney Look list.

I am a cast member with extensive tattoos. I work in Culinary where I would say at least 30% of us have ink at some degree. Our costumes cover them so its not to much of an issue. I am in a show kitchen at one of the resorts and I never have issues if they peek out or such. I would like to hope that one day the company will understand that it is a form of discrimination. And I know the first thing people say is "you chose that" but people choose their religions and you cannot discriminate against that. (shrug) For all the rules we have to adhere to and the hoops we jump I also think that we should get paid more NOW and not in 2015-16 when they raise the minimim wage to 10.00 an hour at WDW.

What I witnessed when I was at the international food and wine festival last October was completely opposite of the squeaky clean image of a park. The cast members were not the problem but the way the guests where allowed to behave. I felt like I was on Bourbon Street not at a Disney Park with the drunken behavior I saw. Walt Disney would have been horrified. I saw people passed out on the street. Imagine if he felt that way about trash how he would he feel about drunks passed out on the ground.

It is a shame to see people like that abusing the parks pleasures. My last night of my College Program a drunkard was puking and the girl behind me was taking pictures of the Illumination fireworks at Epcot. I tuned them out because I had dealt with several drunk people coming to my shop window buying beer. They were enjoying them self but younger people just don't take in that their young children that see it. It is hard to see from the Guest point of view but Disnet tries their best to keep everything in their power under control. 30,000 people came to Epcot and just Epcot everday (not counting on holidays---it gets to double that). It's hard to monitor all of them. Hopefully your next visit will be better. Have a Disney Day!

I worked a Disney College Program last year from January to May and it was amazing to see how everything worked behind the scenes. But about this standard: yes Disney sees tattoos and gauge piercings not as an offensive thing but as a Cast Member we must all play our part as a Character. You are a Character with your own set and the camera is every guest that comes through your park. So say you star in play or a stage drama, you are required to dress how the director has instructed you to dress; in your costume and anything out of place just won't do. Guys having beards was an issue until a couple years ago. Now male Cast Members are allowed to have a clean cut beard or mustache (none of that Duck Dynasty stuff aka very uninviting) Not everyone likes the rules. It's hard at first to have all of your costume together and there is a lot to remember, but to show your Disney side as a Cast Member you must play the part everyday as if you were playing yourself as a Character in your own Disney Movie.

As an annual passholder who has three young children, I'm very happy with the standards to which Disney expects their castmembers to adhere. We have had annual passes at Sea World, Bush Gardens, and the Universal parks in the past, and Disney outshines them all. The physical appearance standards are just an extension of their expectations of castmembers in general. This amazingly kind and helpful behavior has been the basis of so many happy memories for us. When a cast member at city hall stopped my daughter (who was dressed as Elsa) with a bow and "Why, Princess Elsa! It's such an honor to see you in the Kindgom today! We weren't expecting you!" My daughter was in awe, and after the extended conversation with her about her plans for the day to join her "sister" (a friend dressed as Anna) at the Grand Floridian for tea later, and a visit to the "other" princesses, she was SO excited. It made her day. I could tell you dozens of stories just like this one. Memories that were created by what most think of as "regular" cast members. My husband and I have already decided we want to retire in Orlando and work at Disney when the kids grow up. WE want to be those castmembers for other people's kids. :)

I would love to retire and do the same. Seeing a child's eyes light up as they do in a "magical" world, is priceless!

There is a solution if as a visitor you don't like what Disney does or doesn't do, DON'T GO.

If you don't like the work standards or the wages, DON'T WORK THERE.

To the looks part I agree with, to the wage part I Don't. I work for Disney, and because it is the biggest hospitality company in Florida, it has pull with other hospitality companies around the area. With that being said, working in the Florida sun, dealing with guests that somehow forget their manners, dealing with people that look down on you because you work at Disney, is part of the reason cast members want more pay. It has nothing to do with our jobs being hard, or even putting up with those rude and obnoxious guests. I know a lot of part time cast members that work 60 hours or more in the heat, doing things backstage you never even thought would be going on. And the same Goes for the full time cast members. The issue with the whole pay is that they can pay 70% of their cast members with the profit off of parking alone. Run the numbers which are readily Available to research. You say if you Don't like the wages Don't work there. What about the people that cant afford a car to get a a job further away that will pay more, the mom and dad that works long hours just to provide for their family, mind you some of the cast members have degrees in many different fields, and because Disney has opportunities in those fields, they do what they can to get their foot in the door. So sir as much as you might not like it, Disney runs Florida. The wages might suck, but to get your foot in the door of a company where a degree in electronics is as coveted as a degree in humanities. Its a great start, but a living wage for everyone would be even better. People claim they want equality for everyone but they complain when the people that work the hardest to make peoples dreams come true and make your vacations a vacation to remember. And That's in universal and disney. If we cast members and team members, did a crappy job, and didnt care about you, like some companies out there that dont care about their guests. Would you ever have that great memory of you or your child meeting a character they love?

I worked for Disney World for five years. It was a great experience but I'm glad they relaxed a bit on look guidelines. I'm especially glad that men can have beards now. Many of my male friends who had to shave constantly had damaged and irritated skin. Also people like me can be born with natural high lights in their hair. Forcing someone to change natural things to fit a look is wrong. Tattoos and piercings aren't natural and can be offensive and distracting, I get that.

I'm always curious of why people think they have to profane language just to be heard,I will be back creating the magic in September.

something Disney teaches here, is a thing called diversity life. We're all different outwardly we all come from different backgrounds and cultures,but inwardly we are all the sameand we can live on this planet together in peaceand when people come here and see the success of this business people would want to emulate it. We are by no means perfect we do our best to make the world a better place for the next generationI say God bless Disney and the collective effort to make it special.

We took our kids to disney regularly and now our grand kids yearly. The Disney image makes the magic happen. The attention to detail and yes that includes employee appearance transports us to a simpler world and time. It makes you feel safe and truly a guest. It's almost a shock when you (rarity) overhear a personal conversation between cast members. After our visit last month I thought it might be nice if there was a dress code for guests. LOL. I saw a 30something woman in a haram costume. Nooooo! And same woman same costume 3 days in a row. She could at least worn a blue one and attempted to be Jasmine.

As a current castmember who stayed at a property hotel and visited Blizzard Beach this week, I have to say that Disney enforcing dress code on guests is a joke. I cannot tell you how many women were wearing thong bathing suits. There are kids everywhere and I was even offended as an adult. I shouldn't catch an x-rated view standing behind you when you bend over.

As a former Disney Store manager in the early-mid 90's, I can tell you that these standards extend beyond the scope of the theme/water parks. The classic, neutral, clean-cut look extends to all branches of the Disney empire. As they used to tell us at home base..."you have to be more Disney here, than in the parks themselves", because they wanted us to give guests a taste of the magic from afar. I hired a retired man who had had a full beard for 25+ years, and had to tell him that if he wanted the job, he would have to shave it off. He loved everything about Disney so much, that he came in completely clean-shaven the first day, and never looked back. The requirements shouldn't be looked at as controlling or discriminatory. The clean-cut, fresh look is an important part of the wholesome culture that has always made Disney so unique and special.

Love this article!!! I completely agree. Disney is a place like no other so it has standards like no other to keep the magic alive while you are there. I am a HUGE Disney fan and love being immersed in the world of Disney!!

Love this article!!! I completely agree. Disney is a place like no other so it has standards like no other to keep the magic alive while you are there. I am a HUGE Disney fan and love being immersed in the world of Disney!!

Love this article!!! I completely agree. Disney is a place like no other so it has standards like no other to keep the magic alive while you are there. I am a HUGE Disney fan and love being immersed in the world of Disney!!

We are DVC members and I totally agree. The cast members and their appearances are what helps make Disney stand out above the rest. It's what makes us keep coming back. Love the article.

I do admire and relate with disney's regulations regarding the appearance of wdw cast members because i find dress codes reassuring instead of restrictive because i understand that when a guest comes to disney they expect every cast member to look professional and appropriate because a guest wouldn't want to see a cast member not looking appropriate

I had an issue with the "Disney Look" after I had to have surgery on my chin for a small spot of skin cancer. I had to have a bandage on my chin for a while that was not your usual type and was rather obvious. I was told that I had to find a bandage less visual and not so obvious. They also said if I could not that I could go on personal leave ...with out pay... Why? Because it was not work related or posses a threat to guests health. I was out of work for three weeks and had to go work someplace else. I had only a week worth of vacation to use. I think this sucked and was just totally selfish of Disney and that they have no program to help cast members with this kind of issue. Sorry Disney I'm not coming back.

Comment 45 never got approved because it was the truth.

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