Uniform through the ages at ZSL

Uniform has changed a lot through the years here at ZSL. In the beginning, many members of staff would be wearing what would today seem to be very formal clothes for working with animals! In this blog we'll show you images of items held in our photographic collections and archive, which show items of historical uniform that we hold.

Image by Frank Haes of Jenny the elephant and keeper (1864)
Image by Frank Haes of Jenny the elephant and keeper (1864)

An image from 1864 by Frank Haes of Jenny the elephant – you can see the Zoo staff member stood next to her is wearing a suit and hat.

Frederick York image of zoo keeper 1872
Frederick York image of zoo keeper 1872

An image of an animal keeper taken by Frederick York in 1872. If you look closely you can see that his jacket has the letters ZSL embroidered on the lapels. The overall look is still quite formal. 

King Penguin, with keeper Harry Munro (1914)
King Penguin, with keeper Harry Munro (1914)

This next image is of keeper Harry Munro with a King Penguin (1914). You can see the uniform is still quite formal here with the waistcoat and hat. Munro was killed in the First World War, having served in the army, in airships and on the anti-submarine patrol. 

Image from 1923 showing Reginald Innes Pocock holding a Kinkajou
Image from 1923 showing Reginald Innes Pocock (Superintendent of London Zoo from 1904 to 1923) holding a Kinkajou

This mage from 1923 shows Reginald Innes Pocock (Superintendent of London Zoo from 1904 to 1923) holding a Kinkajou. Kinkajous are a type of carnivore found from Eastern Mexico to the Mato Grosso of Central Brazil. His smart attire is probably reflective of the senior position of Superintendent.  

ZSL uniform blue
ZSL uniform blue

This this well-worn dress uniform from the 1960s, which is held in our archive collections, is not unlike the one we saw from 1872. It has ZSL embroidered on the lapels, and golden buttons and ribbon detailing. 

Grey staff jacket
Grey staff jacket

And this later period grey woollen keeper jacket was worn by a staff member called Sally at Whipsnade. Again it features the embroidered ZSL on the lapels, but is althougher less formal (and more practical!)

These are animal section identifying bits to put on the shoulder strap of a jacket
Animal section 1

By the time we get to the 90s, we start to see the familiar green colour that'll you'll recognise being in our keeper uniforms today. These items are animal section identifying bits to put on the shoulder strap of a jacket. They show (from top left clockwise) birds, reptiles, mammals and the aquarium. 

Animal section patches. They show mammal department, horticulture department, works and maintenance and invertibrates.
Animal section patches

These are patches again from the 90’s that staff would wear on their shirt or jacket, that again denote the different sections/departments that they worked in.

Staff section badges. They read 'children's zoo', 'keeper' and 'senior keeper'
Staff section badges

Staff also wore badges bearing their section or job title: these are for the children's zoo (now known as 'Animal Adventure'), a Senior Keeper and a Keeper.

Anyone is welcome to visit ZSL Library and Archive. Please note that you need to make an appointment to see any items held in our archives. Read more here

Further reading:

London Zoo from Old Photographs 1852-1914 by John Edwards (2012) 

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