Eye On Apparel: Taking A Breather

Lipik Stock Media / ecco / Shutterstock.com. Photo illustration by SPARK Publications.

Following the coronavirus pandemic, many industries will likely see changes in corporate apparel, at least for a little while. With some companies opting to cut costs by having employees work remote indefinitely, to hesitancies surrounding the safety of employees returning to their workplaces, expect some businesses with formal dress codes to forego traditional corporate apparel in favor of comfort with more relaxed attire. 

Whether these changes in dress are temporary or long term are yet to be determined—but it’s something that’s likely to be well-received by workers. One in three workers would choose a casual dress code over a $5,000 raise, according to a survey by Randstad US of more than 1,200 employees representing all industries, including banking and finance, government, transportation, legal services, retail and advertising. A survey of 2,000 U.S. adults by market research company OnePoll found that half of the respondents already worked for offices that allowed a casual dress code. Investment banking and financial services company Goldman Sachs made headlines last year when it announced it was shifting from a business formal dress code to a “flexible” dress code—a move that chips away at the stereotypical image of the suit-wearing Wall Street banker, says GQ. 

Kyle Schnitzer of Ladders—a New York-based company providing career advice, news and tools, and an online job search—writes that some companies may feel compelled to allow a more relaxed dress code to make employees feel more comfortable when returning to work post-coronavirus. Hive, a cloud-based project management platform, says that we can expect to see most dress codes nixed entirely, though within reason. But there are other benefits to enforcing a more lax dress code aside from making employees feel comfortable—attracting new talent. Last year Dechert LLP, a law firm with 27 offices worldwide, announced it was adopting a casual dress code, even permitting the attorneys to wear jeans to work. It was a move designed to make the attorneys more appealing to their clients, Law reports, as well as attract younger talent to the firm. For companies looking to hire younger talent, the shift to casual could pose a win-win.

But while there are clear benefits to enforcing a more tolerant dress code in the office, there are also some drawbacks. A recent article in The Atlantic notes how in the past, a person could return home from work, hang up their suit, dress, uniform, etc., and relax, both mentally and physically detaching from the work environment for the day. Now, it’s typical to cook dinner in the same jeans—or, for those working from home, sweatpants (and possibly pajamas)—they wore to work, never too far from their smartphone and other devices, which dulls the distinction between work and home; one may never totally be able to fully disconnect. Hive reports a brighter outcome, saying that for some businesses, the shift to working remote came with the realization that attire has less effect on the workplace than expected. 

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, few companies likely had policies surrounding proper dress when using videoconferencing platforms, specifically. A safe strategy is simply to adhere to the in-office dress code—at least from the waist up—when participating in video meetings. Penn Live compiled a list of Zoom “etiquette,” including just one suggestion for dress: don’t wear pajamas. 

POPSUGAR suggests that if you only have a few moments to get it together for a video call, opt for a simple t-shirt and layer on accessories, like glasses or jewelry. The Cut suggests that if you aren’t sure what to wear, turtlenecks are a go-to—they cover a larger area of the body, frame the face and can be an easy way to add a pop of color while livening up the wearer’s skin tone. But aside from these general suggestions, there’s much room left for interpretation—and an opportunity for brands to represent their teams and establish cohesion in smart, new and more comfortable ways.

A survey by Randstad US of more than 1,200 employees representing all industries, including banking and finance, government, transportation, legal services, retail and advertising, revealed that casual dress is the new norm in the majority of workplaces. The survey also found that:

  • 79 percent report their current employer’s dress code policy is either business casual (26 percent), casual (33 percent) or non-existent (20 percent) 
  • 50 percent say they will wear business attire from the waist up and casual clothing from the waist down during video interviews

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Show employees or top clients you’re thinking of them with a custom tie. Made from 100-percent silk, this woven tie, featuring a twill weave, was custom-designed for Arrowhead Dental Group, with initial artwork submitted by distributor IC Group. Also available in 100-percent polyester (with a silk-like feel), design options include step and repeat (shown), stripes or 100-percent custom. 

Buffalo Bay  /  PPAI 111547, S4 /  www.buffalobay.com

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A clean look for employees in front-facing roles, the Gear for Sports Seaport 1/4 Zip is made from a blend of 80-percent cotton and 20-percent polyester. A BIC Graphic exclusive, details include a concealed zipper, elbow patches, a contrasting inner collar and a faux leather zipper pull. Available in X-2XL in navy, charcoal and salt and pepper (shown).

BIC Graphic NA  /  PPAI 114187, S13  /  www.bicgraphic.com

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With a soft hand, the button-down Men’s Naugatuck Shirt combines the look of business casual with the comfort of a tee. Made from a 58-percent cotton and 42-percent polyester blend, the yarn-dyed, pique knit includes a gingham trim on the inside of the neck, cuff and hem for extra flair, with details including a Y-neckline and curved hemline with a drop tail. The shirt is also garment-dyed then washed using a certain process to create a soft hand, and is made to be worn tucked or untucked, catering to the wearers’ style. Available in S-5XL in grey chambray, black, blue chambray and denim chambray (shown).

Charles River Apparel  / PPAI 111644, S10 /  www.charlesriverapparel.com

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A perfect option to provide employees working at home or in the office with cohesive, branded gear, the Women’s Freetown Henley features a Y-neckline and curved hemline with a drop tail for added coverage. Made from a 100-percent cotton club knit with a woven chambray trim, it’s garment-dyed then washed to create a soft, textured hand. Available in XS-3XL in white, charcoal, navy, black and bay (shown). 

Charles River Apparel  /  PPAI 111644, S10 / www.charlesriverapparel.com

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A super comfortable oxford for today’s businessman, the Cutter & Buck Reach Oxford is made using a soft blend of 52-percent cotton, 45-percent polyester and three-percent LYRCA pique fabric. Available in both long-sleeve and short-sleeve options in S-3XL in charcoal, polished, white, indigo (shown on left) and limited-edition lakeshore (shown). 

Cutter & Buck  / PPAI 196156, S11  /  www.cbcorporate.com

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With remote workers adapted to a more relaxed dress than what is required in the workplace, companies can meet them in the middle by offering the look of a sleek, button-down with the feel of athleisure. The Vansport Pro Ventura Polo, available in a complimentary women’s style, is part of Vansport’s Work-From-Home Collection. The mélange jersey shirt is made from a 95-percent polyester and five-percent spandex blend, and includes antimicrobial properties. Available in S-5XL in dark grey, navy, royal and black (shown). 

Vantage Apparel  /  PPAI 113235, S10   /   www.vantageapparel.com

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For employees who are required to wear a company uniform, like in the transportation and hospitality industries, the Women’s Greg Norman Play Dry Foreward Series Polo is a perfect fit. Available in a complementary men’s style, the ultra-soft, luxury performance blend polo is available in S-3XL in three fresh colors: Caribbean blue, jade and coral sun (shown).

Vantage Apparel / PPAI 113235, S10  / www.vantageapparel.com

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Okay, okay—it’s not exactly “corporate.” But wouldn’t it make a light-hearted and humorous idea to offer work-from-home employees a branded polo or button-down with a pair of comfy sweatpants for their Zoom meetings? A good addition to a work-from-home employee “gift” or “care package” is the Unisex Sponge Fleece Long Scrunch Pant. Made with a blend of 52-percent Airlume combed and ring-spun cotton and 48-percent poly fleece using eco-friendly manufacturing processes that are 100-percent free of sweatshops, the recipient is sure to wear these again and again—and probably during your Zoom meetings, but they’ll think of your company every time. Available in XS-2XL in navy, black, dark grey heather and athletic heather (shown). 

BELLA + CANVAS / PPAI 304892, S6 / www.bellacanvas.com

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The Port Authority Legacy Jacket is a perfect complement for employees to wear to retreats and events, with details including a stowaway hood in the cadet collar, a locker loop, an interior chest pocket with a hook-and-look closure and front-and-back vents for breathability and easy embroidery. The jacket is made using 100-percent polyester, which includes the shell, the upper-body lining, the lower lining and the front and sleeve lining. Available in XS-6XL in three color combinations, including dark/navy/red, red/dark navy and black/steel grey (shown). 

SanMar  /  PPAI 110788, S16  /  www.sanmar.com

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It’s important to take precautions when reintroducing employees into the workplace, with employee safety post-coronavirus being a top concern. Some companies may consider providing face masks or adding branded face masks to a company store, pledging to donate a portion of the proceeds to a relief organization. The Reusable Cotton Face Mask is a non-medical, multi-layer face cover that meets the requirements for personal safety set by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Sold in packs of five, the masks are made using 100-percent ring-spun cotton fabric and feature two-ply construction with double ear slots on each side for an adjustable fit. The machine-washable masks are available in one-size-fits-most in black, charcoal, red, royal and navy (shown).

Vantage Apparel / PPAI 113235, S10 / www.vantageapparel.com

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Another option for companies looking to provide employees with face masks is the Allmask Tri-Blend Protective Face Mask. Distributed in packs of three, the reusable mask is made using a fabric blend of 50-percent Repreve polyester made from recycled plastic; 25-percent organic cotton from USA-grown, chemical-free plants and 25-percent TENCEL Modal. The masks are made in the U.S. in one-size-fits-most in 10 colors, and feature an adjustable nose, elastic straps and a tearaway label. And even better, each mask is made using approximately one recycled water bottle, and for every 10 packs sold through the supplier’s website, Allmade will donate one pack to a health-care facility in need.

Allmade / PPAI 743984, S1 / www.allmade.com

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Nothing beats classic, and although most companies will likely practice leniency with their dress code, some may wish to return to business as usual, just how it was—or as close to that as possible. The Van Heusen Women’s Oxford is a classic, tailored button-down, made from a blend of 60-percent cotton and 40-percent polyester that’s wrinkle-free. Available in XS-3XL in blue, English blue, white and dark grey (shown). 

PVH Corporate Outfitters / PPAI 216131, S3  /  www.pvhcorporateoutfitters.com

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by Barry Lipsett 

The business suit was replaced by Casual Fridays, followed by open shirts and skinny jeans. When the shelter-at-home order was in place, how many people swapped professional attire and cubicles for pajamas and conference calls?

As workers begin to return to their workplaces this summer, a desire for versatile, comfy clothes are still in demand. Charles River Apparel’s designer, Tsedenia Kiros, says, “Comfort-first designs are winning right now as ‘#stayhomestyle’ becomes the new norm. Expectations around this new lifestyle will have long-term consequences permeating all markets, especially activewear, which will be dominated by versatile loungewear. Consumers are prioritizing comfort and will no longer accept styles that constrict, contort and dig in.”

Here’s why I think we will see the trend of comfy clothes on the rise:

1. When making a quick trip, such as running in and out of the grocery store, comfort is more important than making a fashion statement.

2. It is a great time to enjoy the outdoors so be ready for any weather with a comfy sweatshirt or quarter-zip pullover to throw over your t-shirt or button-down.

3. This is the time to be comfortable as being comfortable can help cut down on stress so wear your favorite jeans or joggers. Do some meditation and take breaks between video calls. 

4. Convenience. Comfy clothes tend to be easier to maintain. If you are an essential employee working outside your home, you are probably washing your clothes right away to ensure they are clean and disinfected.

5. Cost. High-fashion and performance fabrics do not have as much perceived value when spending is down and finding essential products are the priority.

6. Most promotional apparel is comfortable for wear. For those doing Zoom video calls, what better way to promote your company than to wear your company logo on a soft pullover or polo shirt?

So, while we all get used to this new normal, it will be interesting to see which trends stay with us and which ones are temporary. I, for one, think that the demand for comfy clothes is indeed here to stay.  

Barry Lipsett is president of supplier Charles River Apparel in Sharon, Massachusetts. 

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Well, it was only a matter of time before fashion picked up on consumers' need for face masks, wasn't it? Not only are they the latest "essential" item—literally—but with fashion brands hurting from store closures and drops in sales due to coronavirus, many decided to start manufacturing face masks as a way to generate sales and help provide members of the local community in need with protective gear and generate sales. 

With so much buzz around face masks in general, it's also a good product to offer because it's the subject of many social media searches. For example, the Pandemic Action Network, which aggregates for policy changes and increased support and resources concerning pandemics, started the #MaskingForAFriend campaign, which was quickly picked up by celebrities and social media influencers to encourage fans to protect themselves by wearing face masks. Among those who posted using the hash tag on social media was politician and former First Lady Hillary Clinton. 

So far, it also looks like face masks are here to stay, and both brands and entrepreneurs are finding ways to meet the rising demand. MaskClub, launched by distributor Trevco in Sterling Heights, Michigan, is the first company to offer a monthly subscription service for face masks. For a monthly fee of $9.99, subscribers receive non-medical face masks decorated with licensed characters, like Care Bears, Hello Kitty, Powerpuff Girls, Batman and Scooby Doo. Brands selling fashion masks range from Gap and American Eagle to Nordstrom, Alice + Olivia and Lucky Brand.

For employees or end users who could benefits from a non-medical mask that suits that day-to-day need, companies can imprint their logo or brand message directly onto a face mask for front-and-center focus. But for those looking to stand out a little bit more, supplier Foxyware offers Custom Logo Rhinestone-Emblazoned Face Masks. With only a 50-piece minimum and no additional charge for a multi-color logo, the two-ply masks are also reusable and machine-washable. 

Vegas Golf/Foxyware  /  PPAI 368029, S1  /  www.foxyware.com

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Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.

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