With so many people working from home nowadays, our attitude towards the perfect “office outfit” has also changed. Formal suits are frequently left hanging in the closet, dress shirts are being swapped out for casual sweatshirts, and shoes are sometimes left out altogether. The demand for business wear is virtually gone and cozy loungewear is being snapped up in large numbers. But that doesn’t mean you’re sitting in front of your laptop wearing pajamas, right?
Very few actually take it that far. Right now the buzz is all about “hybrid clothing”: It's smart enough, nice fitting, and very comfortable—perfect for working from home as well as for taking a short trip to the supermarket.
Whether all providers of formal business wear should now switch completely to loungewear remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: they should take the trend towards jersey, sweat, and stretch seriously. After all, there has been a change in thinking. Contrary to the now infamous quote by renowned German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld: “Anyone who wears sweatpants has lost control of his life,” they are now part of everyday work life for many people.
According to several recently conducted studies, our work is more productive when we are dressed for the office. But what exactly does it mean to be “dressed for the office” when working from home is now the norm? A small survey among friends and acquaintances shows that there are very different interpretations and preferences. In general, it turns out that people can be lumped into three different types.
For our colleague Toby, nothing has changed. He believes that his work is more productive when he wears smart attire. Working from home thus plays no role whatsoever in his choice of clothing in the morning. It is very important for him to separate work from his free time, and that’s why he doesn’t change into casual wear until the workday is done. For important appointments, he even slips on a suit coat and rounds everything off with the right shoes—just for the feeling.
Alice views things differently. She doesn’t see any connection between her productivity and her outfit, but she always wears office-friendly clothing for her own well-being. With one exception, however: Her feet can be a little more cozy.
Paul firmly believes that his performance has nothing to do with his clothes. He just wants to feel good. That’s why most of his working time is spent in loungewear, such as sweatpants and cotton shirts. Sometimes he slips on a dress shirt for an important appointment, but then immediately casts it aside afterward.
“The Paul” is by no means alone. There’s no doubt that working from home has led to an increase in “blended working” and blurred the lines between work and free time. Case in point: many people have a so-called “Zoom shirt” ready to go for when they have an appointment or there’s an impromptu video call.
What started with a different dress shirt for each day of the week, however, often develops into one or two standard dress shirts or blouses used alternately. The favorite showpiece item is usually within close reach, slung over a chair or hanging on the door.
There are, however, a few things to keep in mind when it comes to this handy solution: The perfect shirt for video chats has to meet a few important requirements, such as a timeless design and a wrinkle-free material that can be washed frequently. You've also got to be careful when selecting the colors and prints. Thin stripes or minimalistic patterns are not suitable for videoconferencing, as they can blur and cause distraction. The colors selected should also be adjusted based on the lighting conditions to prevent skin from looking unnatural or an overexposed image. A simple, timeless color scheme and a plain pattern are therefore recommended. For anyone wanting something a little more striking, beautiful details on the collar or cuffs or special pockets can help add some spice.
Working from home demonstrates how everybody has a different idea of work-friendly attire, and that this interpretation isn't always in line with what is commonly considered appropriate for the office. How our style of office clothing develops as we start going back to the office more often is anybody’s guess. Perhaps the large selection of business shirts and blouses in the closet will indeed have no use in the future. We’re curious and excited to see the trends of tomorrow.
Trend-Ausblick 2021: Mode im und nach dem Homeoffice, harpersbazaar.de, 2021
Mode fürs Homeoffice: Wie die Coronakrise unseren Stil beeinflusst, DER SPIEGEL, 2020
The Video Call Is Starting. Time to Put on Your Zoom Shirt, The New York Times, 2020
Homeoffice: Arbeiten in Jogginghose verschlechtert die Leistung, Berliner Morgenpost 2021