Office clothes is changing and the demise of office attire has paralleled a steady erosion of boundaries between work life and home life. Even before the pandemic, office clothes was already showing sign as another thing that will never be the same for a long time .
The slow erasure of professional attire can be viewed as a symbol of some of the ways the economy, and the experience of white-collar work have changed for the worse.
It’s not a coincidence that adoption of ultra-casual workplace dress happened as America was swooning over the swashbucklers of Silicon Valley.
“There was Steve Jobs in his signature turtleneck and jeans. Marc Zuckerberg in his hoodies, and countless deifying business magazine covers of tech dudes in bomber jackets, whiskered denim, sweatshirts and T-shirts.”
The message was that they were rule breakers. That they were winning, not just despite thumbing their nose at your dad’s way of doing business, but because of it.
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Professional Attire Or Office Clothes Is Changing
Professional attire has been evolving for decades into ever more casual modes. For men, suits gave way to blazers and slacks. Then blazers and dark jeans. And then, just jeans and a button-up.
For women, pantyhose got dumped, and skirt suits became a relic. Leggings somehow got reclassified in wardrobe taxonomies as pants.
Now, thanks to this weird, extraordinary summer America is having, it’s finally happened; office clothes is changing, and becoming a fading fad. No, I heard you counter that, office clothes are officially dead!
Office Clothes Is Changing To Coronavirus Work Cloths
Desk jockeys have been toiling from home since mid-March. They have left whatever they thought of as work clothes in the back of the closet — or idling at the dry cleaner — ever since.
Why endure constrictive, belted trousers when your Zoom setup doesn’t show anything below your shoulders? Why wear your slickest power dress, when you might stain it during intermittent supervision of your kids’ messy craft project?
Every Change Comes With Winners and Casualties
The change that is happening has dealt a crushing blow to the cadre of already-fragile mall retailers who make money dressing customers for their 9-to-5 life.
J. Crew, a bastion of business casual, was the first to succumb, filing for bankruptcy in May.
J.C. Penney went into bankruptcy soon after. Pledging to close more than 150 stores. Thus reducing access points for affordably priced professional wear.
Hits in July:
“The malaise means that thousands of square feet dedicated to selling chinos, houndstooth jackets, pencil skirts and faux pearl necklaces are about to disappear.“
Storied men’s clothier, Brooks Brothers filed for bankruptcy and said it would close about one-fifth of its stores. The corporate parent of women’s dress-wear seller, New York & Co. filed for Chapter 11 protection days later. Saying it may close all of its locations.
The following week, the company behind Jos. A. Bank, and Men’s Wearhouse announced plans to shutter 500 stores. Next fell Ascena Retail Group, promising widespread store closures including a “select” number in its Ann Taylor chain.
The pain continued in August, with Lord & Taylor filing for bankruptcy early in the month.
The Future, The Fear, The Fading Fad
The future for the remaining locations in these chains feels awfully precarious. Several retailers that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in recent years with the intent of reorganizing have ended up going out of business.
Competitors and scrappy startups aren’t likely to rush to fill the void. That means that even if you want to outfit yourself in the traditional costume of cubicle work, you’re soon going to have far fewer options for doing so.
Office Clothes Is Changing To My Boss Rumpled Flannel Shirt
But who is going to want to, or need to go back to traditional costume of cubicle work whenever some semblance of normal returns?
“At first, work-from-home arrangements felt temporary, and so, too, did the wardrobe adaptations. “
Recent announcements by different companies shows that many are not returning to normal office life this year. Google parent Alphabet, confirms that employees won’t be called back to the office until July 2021. Many workers would therefore be keeping up with this routine for a long time.
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So the boss has seen you in a rumpled flannel shirt. Your old-school client has gotten used to your Jon Snow mane. Tell me the point for and against reverting to pre-pandemic fashion pretenses. That’s assuming your dress pants still fit, after a long spell of the sedentary, stay-at-home lifestyle.
Am Liberated Into Another Box Where There Is Boundary
Merger Between Work Life And Home Life
If this proclamation makes you rejoice, I get it. There’s something liberating about letting comfort, not presentation, be your sartorial compass every morning. But I’m not sure the triumph of casual wear is really a triumph for office workers.
“The demise of office attire has paralleled a steady erosion of boundaries between work life and home life.”
Thanks to smartphones, workers feel obligated to answer late-night emails from their managers. They also keep checking Slack for a project update from colleagues in a distant time zone. This always-on lifestyle encourages people to work longer hours. And it has been found to be correlated with greater stress and health issues.
“The fact that we don’t dress differently for work anymore is a reflection of the fact that we can no longer compartmentalize it.”
Work is a state of being, something we may have to dip in and out of, at any given moment. That has consequences for our families, our ability to keep up with fulfilling hobbies, and so much more.
Myfwl adapted the write up by Sarah Halzack for short minutes readers. Click here to view the full original write up at www.seattletimes.com. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section.
Sarah Halzack is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the consumer and retail industries. She was previously a national retail reporter for the Washington Post.
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