It hit me recently…it’s hard to believe that as of this month, I’ve spent three years mostly working from home. And I’m not the only one — many workers in corporate America and around the world have the same story to tell.
Hitting the three-year mark of our unexpected work-from-home experience, economists and labor experts generally agree that remote work is here to stay. Is it any wonder that it’s had an effect on, well…everything? How we work, what we buy and what we wear have all changed, and sometime between March 2020 and today a familiar apparel trend became something new.
How Did Athleisure Become Workleisure?
There are a few fashion trends which leave their mark indelibly and live well beyond the era when they originated. For me, what we now know as workleisure started to take shape in 1892, with the invention of the tennis shoe. Suddenly everyday people could play games and be active because their shoes could grip the ground where they were played and women no longer sank into the grass because their shoes now had a flat surface.
Fast forward about 90 years to 1982 and the Jane Fonda Workout. If you were around in the ‘80s, Jane’s leg warmers and high-hipped leotards were inescapable, sparking a widespread trend for people who wanted to exercise but needed to fit it into their schedules and finances by doing it from home – that should sound familiar to us in 2023.
The home exercise trend made activewear more and more popular until around 1997, when it tipped over from dedicated workout gear to everyday apparel, especially for busy moms — this is the athleisure trend as we’ve known it before the pandemic turned it up to eleven.
Today’s activewear is evolving even further, with brands like Carbon38 – known for their yoga and workout clothing – now introducing their take on “pinstripes,” an activewear concept applied to blazers and dress pants for daywear. We have arrived at the era of “luxury activewear,” otherwise known as workleisure.
Hybrid Lifestyles Mean Hybrid Wardrobes
“Comfort” was the watchword during the height of the pandemic, as our well-worn sweats and pajamas can tell you. Now our lifestyles are shifting yet again. We’re no longer stuck at home and many of us are looking forward to dressing up again, but comfort continues to drive our choices.
You can see this in the push-and-pull going on with companies trying to bring workers back into the office. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy issued a return-to-office mandate in February, which many workers quickly protested. Apple, Disney and Google are just a few of the big companies still trying to find the right balance between the comforts of working from home and the benefits of being together in one place.
Adapting your wardrobe to this hybrid lifestyle is just as complicated – there’s a lot of intention that goes into it. The Cycling Breakfast Club is one example of this, a group that rides their bicycles in the morning and meets up for breakfast before heading off to work to start the day. One consideration for a group like this is certainly what they’re wearing — do they need a change of clothes for after the ride or can they adapt their wardrobe to meet the needs of both the bike trail and the office?
This is the hybrid workleisure model in action, which I also sometimes see called modern soft separates, elevated essentials or tech-enhanced workwear. These are pieces that borrow the best functional features of synthetic and natural fibers, resulting in clothes you can work out in if you choose, but also fit right in at the office, like the Command Polo or Long Sleeve Scoop Neck from OGIO.
Comfort can play into more dressed-up styles too — imagine a clean, crisp woven material that feels like a comfy, easy-to-wear knit fabric. OGIO’s Extend Short Sleeve and Long-Sleeve Button-Up blend comfort with a tailored look that works anywhere. Even a comfortable bomber-style sweatshirt can look professional without being overly formal, perfect for that intentionally blended harmony of work and life.
Three years working from home is a lot to wrap my head around – I see the dates and I know it’s true, but it’s not often that we focus on just how long it’s been. It helps a little to think about all the changes that have happened in what we wear over that same time. Our rediscovery of the possibilities of comfort brought about a sudden transformation of our old friend athleisure into something that feels even better: workleisure. Kind of makes you wonder what the next three years will bring, doesn’t it?
Next month we’ll be diving headfirst into the playful aspect of our lives and how we’re spending more energy on the community and connections that matter the most. I hope you’ll join us for our deep dive into Play Dates!