A year ago, every morning I would put some thought into my outfit for the day. After all, there were client meetings, lunches, and maybe a 5 à 7 or dinner after work. I’m not a fashionista, but I would make an effort.
Fast forward to today. Most mornings, I wonder if my business partner will notice if I wear the same jeans for the third day in a row. Note: he doesn’t.
I do not think sweats, yoga pants, and ballcaps at the office will last, but I think our new, more casual business style will become the norm.
We’ve all seen it coming. Over the past 20 years, there has been a shift. In the 90s, you couldn’t imagine heading to the office, especially in the corporate world, in anything less than a pantsuit, skirt or dress, and proper heels.
Over the years, even the most blue-chip of companies and button-down consulting firms have become increasingly casual. I have more than a few blazers, skirts, and fabulous shoes in my closet that I look at with nostalgia. Will I ever wear my much-loved, timeless, navy-blue suit again? I was so proud to buy that suit at Holt Renfrew back in the day. It meant that I had arrived. I was a determined businessperson who demanded to be taken seriously.
Prior to the pandemic, many companies began to emulate the laissez-faire approach of Google and Apple. They were trying to attract and keep the Millennials, the Holy Grail of employees. So, these companies tried to be cool. “You want to wear your Arcade Fire concert t-shirt with sneakers for a meeting with the CEO? No problem. You do you.”
The pandemic has given us all the space to become a bit more relaxed about the old dress code. With the explosion of video meetings, we have even evolved a new hybrid dress code: weekday on top; weekend below! What will happen when we all go back to the office? Can anyone imagine going back to a tailored suit or dress? Will we pack away our Birkies and return to Blahniks? Are we tired of every day being Casual Friday? More importantly, will anyone judge a more casual sartorial style?
This summer I wore shorts to the office – more than once. The horror. Something that would have been inconceivable last summer, or any summer before. It was just not the kind of image one wanted to project for a boutique public relations agency. On one scorcher of a day, I had a lunch planned with a former client, and she showed up in shorts too. She looked so relieved. She said, “I’m so glad you aren’t all fancy!” Why would I be dressed up? There are more important things to worry about than my wardrobe.
The suit might go. The shoes stay.