It used to be that workwear was classified as heavy-duty clothing worn in certain professions for which street clothes just wouldn’t do. About 10 years ago, that definition began to change. The workwear of today is comprised of any clothing worn at work regardless of job description or profession. But wait. The coronavirus pandemic may be on the verge of changing things yet again.
Philly Mag’s Sandy Hingston wrote a great piece in mid-May discussing her own transition from professional dresser to undying fan of sweatpants and T-shirts. She proudly says she is not going back even after the pandemic is over. In her piece, Hingston gracefully opines about how uniforms have transitioned over the decades. She then suggests the winds of change are blowing at this very moment.
- Work from Home Uniforms
Of course, Hingston’s comments are limited to people who both work from home and dress professionally. They do not apply to the hospital worker whose only uniform choice is scrubs. They do not apply to the airline attendant, the fast food worker, or the guy down at the auto shop who has been wearing the same blue work pants and pinstripe shirt for years.
Those of us lucky enough to work from home during the pandemic have enjoyed a brief respite from having to get all done up in the morning. Suit coats and ties have been replaced by polos. Skirts and blouses have been left in the closet in favor of yoga pants and tee shirts.
Our new work-from-home uniforms suit us just fine. They are comfortable and familiar. They might even be relaxing to a point. Hand-in-hand with those uniforms are unshaven faces, undone hair, and a lonely makeup drawer that hasn’t been touched in weeks. But what happens after the pandemic?
- Going Back to Work
If workwear is defined these days as any clothing worn to work, it is quite possible that post pandemic workwear will look a bit different. Perhaps some office managers will no longer be so hell-bent on making sure everyone’s uniform looks a certain way. Maybe 10 weeks working in pajamas will have softened up some of those managers.
Most of us would be surprised if business wear were completely abandoned post coronavirus. But perhaps a new definition of business wear is coming. For example, it could be that dress slacks will not necessarily have to be made of polyester or a poly-cotton blend. Perhaps pleats and straight legs will no longer be required. Maybe by this time next year, a pair of clean and well-maintained blue jeans will be acceptable as dress slacks.
- Uniforms and Identity
Alsco, the Salt Lake City company that pioneered uniform rental more than 100 years ago says that company uniforms have always been about identity. Business owners and managers understand how important identity is to branding. As such, they want their employees dressed a certain way.
Having said that, there is a big difference between the uniform worn by a flight attendant and one worn by an office worker. The flight attendant’s uniform is all about branding. It is also identical to the uniform of every other coworker. In the office environment, there is less emphasis on everyone looking exactly the same.
Workwear in the office environment may be tightly defined according to a company’s perception of business wear. But not every woman is wearing the same skirt; not every man is wearing the same suit coat. As such, there is plenty of room for change. That is why workwear could look quite a bit different in a post-pandemic world.