The old guard in their starched collars may turn their noses up.
But with virtual workforces on the rise and society largely taking a turn for the casual, more and more members of the 21st-century workforce are ditching pleats and donning PUMA.
Current corporate dress codes are relics of a time when customers came to the office for martini lunches with employees wearing freshly pressed suits. As the song goes, the times they are a-changin.
The language of business is a-changin, too. These days we don’t work, we hustle. By 2020, more than half of U.S. households are expected to bring in some or all of their income through the gig economy.
Companies who want to attract masters of the hustle have to sweeten the pot, and replacing their outdated dress codes with smarter, more flexible guidelines as part of a shift in their company culture is one way they’re doing it.
For employees, the benefits of relaxed workplaces are evident: Casual dress codes are in line with the way they live and travel. Cutting back on purchasing single-purpose garments allows them to curate a multifunctional wardrobe that is comfortable, sustainable and which reflects their unique style.
So, what does the modern office dress code look like? Increasingly, one that blends athleisure and business attire.
Critics may scoff, but employers who loosen the Windsor knot on their office attire and adopt this millennial-driven approach find improvements to their company culture, employee productivity and inclusivity.
Whether you work in an office with a modern dress code or are a decision-maker considering adopting one, these tips for merging Sunday style into your Monday meetings can help you hit all the right notes when bringing comfort into the corporate space.
Technical tops are among the most efficient items to incorporate into a smart casual dress code. If you bike or skate to work, this is a gamechanger. Change out your pressed shirts for performance-minded button-ups constructed with breathable, moisture wicking, wrinkle-resistant fabrics so you can break a sweat on your way to the office without leaving behind any clues.
You can also incorporate the technical tops typically reserved for specific sports or activities into your weekday wear. The polos and performance tees already hanging in your closet don’t have to wait until the weekend to have their day in the sun, and can transition into the workday with minimal adjustments.
For a whole new take on the pantsuit, leave your camisole or shell top hanging in your closet. Paired with a classic black blazer and cigarette trousers, your favorite performance tee or muscle shirt creates a new relaxed yet professional style that is cool in every sense of the word.
Polos bring with them the versatility to be dressed up or down with ease. For a casual yet polished approach, pair a solid polo with dark wash denim and classic Chukka boots. To dress a polo up without losing its laidback look and feel, team it with chinos and a sportcoat, and choose boat shoes or loafers on your feet.
Relaxed dress codes don’t have to signal the end of professional style. Appropriately paired, the casual vibe of joggers and yoga pants will add a modish twist with professional appeal, while technical pants offer additional comfort in familiar business styles.
The classic women’s wide leg yoga pant pairs perfectly with the structured business wear tops already hanging in most closets. Ditch the wool trousers and swap in bootcut yoga pants to pull off your current office style with way (and we mean WAY) more comfort.
Meanwhile, wear more form-fitting yoga pants with long, loose cut tops. A tunic-style blouse or an untucked boyfriend button down both work well and can be dressed up even further with the addition of a blazer or vest. A word of caution: with a few ill-chosen accessories, form-fitting yoga pants can transform from laid-back business casual to Accidental Han Solo. If you’re pairing knee-high boots with form-fitting pants, exercise caution when adding a vest.
To offset the loungewear feel of men’s jogger-style yoga pants, pair them with a well-tailored blazer or with layers, such as a button down and sweater or vest. Mixing traditional fabrics, such as wool or tweed, into this look will achieve an updated academic mood that will fit in at the office and happy hour.
It’s been said that life is too short to wear uncomfortable shoes. Now, while your muddy trail runners should definitely stick to the trails, there’s no reason not to wear your stylish (and clean) athletic shoes into the office.
For a refined, feminine style, try a monochrome black ensemble composed of typical business attire that takes on a modish vibe when paired with a skateboarding sneaker.
Men have already begun to move away from suits in favor of separates, allowing for more of their style to shine through by mixing colors and prints. Take this look to the next level by replacing your blazer with a hoodie, and give your wingtips a break by donning some classic Vans.
Slim denim or tapered chinos and a relaxed blazer or sportcoat are the keys to making your Nike Airs and other classic sports shoes look right at home in the office. A bold or contrasting color on your shoes can define the rest of your outfit, while a basic black or gray will more subtly complement your style.
Millenials make up the largest living generation, and they are more educated and productive than any previous American workforce. Athleisure-inclusive dress codes may help businesses attract the top talent of this generation, while also opening the doors to employees who have previously been shut out.
There’s athleisure attire to fit everyone’s style and individual needs. Now, go find yours!