Just how casual will wardrobes become?
A survey from Randstad US, the recruitment agency, found that one-third of employees would prefer an informal dress code to an extra $5,000 in salary.
The survey of 1,200 employees was conducted in June 2019, well before the pandemic accelerated a casualization trend that has been evolving for over a century.
In a column for Time from 2015, historian Deirdre Clemente came up with three “milestones” capturing the casualization of America, starting with the introduction of sportswear that flourished during the Jazz Age.
The second was the acceptance of shorts, helped by the popularity of bicycling in the twenties and the Bermuda shorts craze in the forties.
Finally, the third milestone was seen as the “unisexing” of wardrobes that began in the fifties when it became acceptable for women to wear pants, a trend that blew up in the sixties when women embraced t-shirts, jeans, cardigans and button-down collared shirts.
Ms. Clemente, however, said “comfort and practicality” has long underpinned the shift toward relaxed dressing. Those underlying drivers have been accentuated during the pandemic. Although athleisure is often cited among the newer trends driving casualization, people are believed to have grown accustomed to comfy clothes when cocooning in their homes throughout the pandemic.
“After being home for a year and a half, nobody wants to update their wardrobe to a really high dress wardrobe,” Scott Baxter, CEO of Kontoor Brands, the parent of Wrangler and Lee, recently told CNBC.
Increasing acceptance of remote work is seen as another catalyst.
In reporting second-quarter results, Macy’s noted that traditional wear-to-work and dressy categories were showing some recovery as people began returning to social gatherings and offices.
Casual apparel trends remained strong, however, and retailers continue to carve out more space for casual and active assortments. A Wall Street Journal article from June questioned whether ties will “ever be relevant again?”
In August, Marks & Spencer announced it would only be stocking suits in 110 of its 254 larger stores. Wes Taylor, director of M&S menswear, told the Sunday Times, “COVID hit fast forward on the trend to more casual dressing that was already in train.”
- Randstad US survey finds casual dress is (almost) always in fashion in today’s workplace. – Randstad US
- Why and When Did Americans Begin To Dress So Casually? – Time
- CEO of Wrangler parent says ‘global casualization’ will continue to dominate apparel market – CNBC
- Macy’s, inc (M) Q2 2021 Earnings Call Transcript – The Motley Fool
- Americans update their closets as they emerge from pandemic – The Associated Press
- American fashion continues to become increasingly casual. – WWD
- The new office wardrobe: Stretchy pants, flowy dresses and elastic waistbands on everything – The Washington Post
- U.S. retailers bring back ‘above-the-keyboard’ clothes as Delta surge persists – Reuters
- Will Ties Ever Be Relevant Again? – The Wall Street Journal
- Marks & Spencer stores stop stocking suits – Sunday Times
- Is workleisure a new or rehashed opportunity? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see the pandemic becoming a milestone event accelerating the casualization of wardrobes? How much of a blow will tailored suits, dresses, high heels and other formal wear take from the pandemic and how long will it last?