Business Casual

Look, no one likes wearing pants, right? Especially the kind of HR-approved, Corporate Pants that never quite fit right, that always sit in a weird place on your waist or give your body lumps where you don’t actually have lumps, so then you have to mask those lumps with equally awkward-fitting HR-approved blouses? Or maybe, just maybe, you finally find a pair of Corporate Pants that fit like a dream, but the material makes a funny sound when you walk like the time George Costanza bought that suit? Is this just me? I seem to see plenty of other people who at least appear perfectly comfortable in their Corporate Pants, so maybe I was the only one dealing with the Daily Pants Struggle, but I’m more inclined to believe that, with the exception of a select few people – Banana Republic models and the children of CEOs, those kids who slip right from Mom’s womb into a pair of Baby Corporate Pants – we are all secretly and silently fighting our own Battle of the Pants, and it will take a deep reserve of collective strength and bravery for each of us to stand up and say, “ENOUGH. I am tired of slacks that have a zipper, a button, AND that little metal-latch-thing. I have to pee too many times a day to deal with that shit. I mean, honestly, Banana Republic, was the classic zipper-button combo not enough? Is this a chastity belt? Why do my pants need such a complicated entry and exit process?” Or, you know, you can put it in your own words. The point is we all need to rise up against the Era of the Oppressive Pants.

Enter the Funemployment Dress Code: I have essentially worn nothing but running clothes for five weeks. I think I can honestly count on one hand the number of times since I left work that I’ve put on a real bra (hey, sports bras are more supportive, and underboob sweat is a very real and very terrible thing. My choices are valid.). I didn’t get to this point intentionally; in my first few days of joblessness I was just enjoying my freedom, running a lot, and spending a lot of time doing my own particular version of yoga, which involves a few sets of planks in thirty second to one minute increments followed by twenty minutes of sitting on the floor arguing with the dog.

I had every intention of starting the second week of unemployment right – I was going to get up, shower, and get dressed in real clothes like a damn adult, and sit down to Do Something Productive. But then we were hit with the kind of heat so oppressive that I couldn’t stop sweating even when sitting still in a dark and air-conditioned room; the kind of heat that made even Murray, a dog who lives for walkies, reluctant to go more than a block, constantly looking up at me with a face that so clearly said, “what the fuck, lady?” The kind of weather that causes local public radio reporters, people supposedly paid to say not-idiotic things, to actually utter the sentence, “looks like we’ll have a cooler day tomorrow with highs around 97.” So obviously real clothes were out of the question, because in hot weather if it’s not made of synthetic materials with sweat-wicking technology I want nothing to do with it.

So now I’ve become one of those people: the people in workout clothes all the time. In my defense (here’s the part where I get all judgy of other people so I can feel superior), I do not combine my perfectly coordinated running outfits with a face of full makeup and an immaculately coiffed and straightened ponytail like the girls you always see at the grocery store who are most certainly not on their way to or from a workout (seriously though, do you think maybe they’re actually grocery store employees? Like, does every grocery store just have a fleet of Yoga Pants Women who get paid to take up space in the yogurt aisle? Some of us need to eat yogurt for its digestive properties, thankyouverymuch); but I can’t say I’m any better, because I wear running clothes even when running is not on my agenda.

The thing is, though, I’ve been conditioned to conflate dress with productivity, as if somehow putting on bottoms that do not include a drawstring or a top with buttons automatically means I’ve accomplished more with my day. And that’s obviously bullshit. Somehow, possibly due to a sudden uptick in physical comfort and freedom of movement, I have managed to be productive despite the insurmountable obstacle of unprofessional clothing; I’ve been getting more things done that make me feel accomplished and good about myself in the past month than I ever did in a month at work in my Corporate Pants. And obviously what I’m wearing will not ultimately be the determining factor in whether I do something worthwhile with my time, but that’s kind of the point of this rambling pants rant: why are employers so concerned with what we wear at work? Why is the corporate world, especially, so obsessed with looking “professional” (as defined by wealthy white men*)? Professional should refer to the skill level with which you do the things that you do, not your outfit. I mean, that’s not to say businesses can’t or shouldn’t have general guidelines – maybe limit Office Bikini Day to once a month – but if you’re more concerned with what your employees have on their bodies than the work they’re putting out then your priorities are fucked up, and I think people will always be happier to work when they’re not spending half their paychecks on uncomfortable blazers. So, friends, let’s all rise up against the Corporate Pants. Make your voices heard! Insist upon your right to denim, that Holy Grail of the office worker! And then, when you all get fired, come join me in Funemployment.

*Obviously the fucked up and insidious whiteness of our mainstream interpretation of “professionalism” is a significantly larger and more important topic that deserves so much more than a parenthetical mention and a footnote, but it also deserves to be discussed by a better writer.

Business Casual