December Writing Challenge Day 15: Sweatpants Are Now Business Attire

(This week’s post originally appeared on as a comment during the 2020 December Writing Challenge.)

Back in 1995, when “casual Fridays” was still something special, I started working for a company that invented and produced motion control solutions (think “the software and hardware that makes factory conveyor systems work”). Because they employed almost exclusively engineers, and because sales happened in a whole other building, management finally decided to just go “business casual” all the time. Where “business casual” was defined as “Please try to make sure your jeans don’t have holes in them.” Again, this was 1995, so it was kind of revolutionary and we all felt lucky to work in such a flexible, tolerant environment.

There was one guy though. A unix engineer, who continued to come to work in slacks and a button down shirt. Every day.

I asked him about it. I was curious why he wouldn’t want to loosen up a bit.

“First, I can’t afford it. I bought and own work clothes. I also own at-home clothes. But I can’t afford to buy a whole other set of “for work, but casual, but don’t wear it at home because if it gets stained you can’t use it at work any more” clothes.”

To be honest, I thought this was being a bit… finicky. But his next answer stuck with me:

“These are my work clothes. I put them on when I’m going to work. It’s how I *know* I’m going to work. It’s part of my routine. I’m not uncomfortable in them, so I don’t really see the need to change just because there’s this fad right now.”

While some of us have worked from home for a while (and some of us more than just “a while”), many more folks had to make a rapid and unexpected adjustment back in February and March. Because so many were finding this change challenging, if not overwhelming, we created a guide to help (…). Part of the advice we included had to do with maintaining a routine that said “I’m going to / at work”.

Back in 1995, I didn’t realize how right my colleague was. But today, after working from home for over 12 years, as I (still) get up every morning and put on my cargo pants (POCKETSES!!) and white button down shirt, I realize, he was not wrong.

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