Writing Challenge Day 15: Sweatpants Are Now Business Attire

Some of you are still in an office. I’m not ignoring you, but I think this question is already answered for you. So, this is what I look like 99% of the time at work. Like many of you my short-term work from home became permanent. I might block my camera and set this to the background and see who notices I don’t move. Are you thinking about my pants? It seems unlikely.


I don’t care if you wear sweatpants. Or shorts. Or whatever else that makes you happy, assuming you don’t stand up. But should we call sweatpants business attire? No, we shouldn’t. Whatever standard you had in an office, it’s still your standard. Do you need to follow it? It depends. First, you do make an impression, and all you have is a little box. Should I have brushed my shaggy hair before getting on the meeting? Shaved? Fixed my collar or take off the sweatshirt? Hidden my space with a background or cleaned up a bit?

Probably. And sometimes I do. Most of my face to face work is with my teammates. They know during COVID-19 lockdowns this winter, I’m likely to have a first grader next to me doing school. They do, too. I’ve never been the most stylish, so bad hair or a disheveled appearance isn’t surprising for me. But when I branch out, meet with new people, or other teams, I do make a bit more effort. I know they only have a few minutes and a small picture to learn anything about me. I want to make sure they know I can do what I’m promising.

One more thing before I go, if you’re wearing sweatpants, that’s fine. If you’re wearing them tomorrow, that’s fine. But make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Show yourself respect, treat yourself well. If you’re having trouble and you don’t have the energy to put other pants on, maybe give up on the little details that don’t matter so much. Make sure it’s not something that’s part of a bigger problem. And make sure the people you see in the little window are doing OK, too. Some of us aren’t doing OK. And it’s good to reach to others, both if you need to, and if you think they might need it. We’re all going through stuff. Don’t hesitate to find somebody, even if you don’t know how they’ll react. And if you need to talk to a random guy writing about sweatpants on the internet, I promise he’ll listen.

  • 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 (https://thwack.solarwinds.com/t5/Geek-Speak-Blogs/The-SolarWinds-Guide-to-Work-From-Home-Introduction/ba-p/586501). 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.

  • I have worked from home for about a decade, and one of the tips I always give new remote workers is to actually get dressed for the day. The routine helps get you in the right mindset for the day. What I wear varies from day to day really. I am comfortable working in jeans and a t-shirt (and do frequently), leggings and a nice blouse, or a dress. Totally depends on what I am feeling that day - even if no one can see me. I will say that I almost never wear shoes, though. Shoes are for going places....

    When we get back to "normal", my attire will change depending on the activity as well. I wear different things for recording videos than I will if I am just writing that day. I wear more professional attire when I am visiting the office over working from home.

    I will say that I don't own sweat pants, though I am known to regularly wear a hoodie this time of year. Yoga pants and leggings almost count though. 

  • A gentleman that works with me wears a dress shirt and tie every Wednesday. We always joke with him when he would meet with an outside client that we didn't know what day it was because it was the second time in the week he wore a tie. I wear a shirt and tie very rarely but it does changes ones behavior slightly.

    Over the years I have worked in environments that required a formal uniform, then a suit, then shirt and tie, then no tie just dress shirt, that business casual but no jeans, and now jeans are fine. The one thing that is NEVER okay if to look like you just came out of a very aggressive Rugby scrum or off the ice from a particularly rough hockey match. At a previous job we used the wearing of jeans as a charity fund raiser. If you wanted to dress down on Friday you purchased a ticket and got a sticker. Each month all the proceeds from casual Friday got donated to a local charity. When you had a local presence of over 100 people, that money could add up in a month. There was one person in our business unit though who had the worst collection of t-shirts imaginable. I mean they looked like he let the moths live in his closet. You do that once and folks might forgive you because you didn't notice it. Yet it got so bad we had to go to the VP and complain. So yes, dress how you like, but please make sure it is appropriate for the situation. That first impression can be a lasting one. 

    I love that Rage shirt:


  • Nice write up  

    I totally agree with you, even though it doesnt matter what we wear how we look as most of us are working remotely, this COVID kinda changed our entire life cycle and its gonna be dam difficult once things are back to normal if there is a huge drift in our life style.

    Show yourself respect, treat yourself well -> totally true we just have to hang in, for sure its gonna be alright and unless things are fine at work it doesnt really matter what's working for us. I am just worried about the first week once things are back to normal

  • This is an excellent topic. Personally for me since changing roles last year I didn't have a home office, so when March hit and we all got sent home for an extended period I initially started off just in random locations around the house. This meant I always tried super hard to look presentable (especially as Zoom meetings was the new normal now that we couldn't meet face to face). However as the months passed I openly admit I started slipping into the creature comfort habit of just chucking on some jeans and a t/polo shirt. If I was cold a SolarWinds hoodie But again a majority of my calls were with internal colleagues or peers.

    More recently my wife and I decided to start a Joe Wicks diet with some regular food habits and exercise together. I have seen good but not fantastic results (I'm still happy with the results) but what it does mean is I have finally been able to fit back into my Chinos which I am now wearing on a more regular basis along with my smarter polo tops or collared top so that I look a bit more presentable. If I'm having an off day and don't look presentable I tend not to turn my camera on if I can get away with it!

Thwack - Symbolize TM, R, and C