Rant: It’s time to get com­fort­able with of­fice-ap­pro­pri­ate yoga pants

Ath­leisure com­pa­nies are vy­ing to nor­mal­ize leg­gings in the of­fice By Kim Bhasin and Re­becca Green­field

Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia) - - CONTENTS -

Even in ca­sual work­places, can peo­ple wear leg­gings? “Prob­a­bly not,” says Vic­to­ria Gu­tier­rez, a 31-year-old man­age­ment con­sul­tant in At­lanta. She’s largely right. Only 36 per­cent of em­ploy­ers sur­veyed in a 2015 So­ci­ety of Hu­man Re­source Man­age­ment re­port al­low work­ers to go ca­sual more than once a week. And of­fices that per­mit re­laxed dress of­ten barely tol­er­ate jeans. Leg­gings? You’re loopy from star­ing at your mon­i­tor too long.

But if you want to be on the right side of his­tory, this is the time to ac­cept that leg­gings—and their par­ent cloth­ing cat­e­gory, ath­leisure—are hit­ting a hot desk near you. Not just ac­cept—cel­e­brate. Al­ready, brands such as Lu­l­ule­mon Ath­let­ica, Nike, and Ath­leta sell work­out at­tire trendy enough to tran­si­tion from SoulCy­cle to Juice Gen­er­a­tion to wher­ever you’re meet­ing friends to con­tinue drink­ing your din­ner. Now a hand­ful of com­pa­nies want to make you as com­fort­able as you are stylish from 9 to 5.

Out­door Voices sells per­for­mance gear in the same muted pal­ette of black and navy you’re al­ready buy­ing for the of­fice. (It will cost the same, too.) Worn to­gether, its stretch crepe jog­gers and merino wool long-sleeve T-shirts and sweaters look more el­e­gant than the blue jeans and fash­ion sneak­ers that dom­i­nate some work­places to­day. On its web­site, the com­pany rec­om­mends stress-re­liev­ing stretches you can do dur­ing a con­fer­ence call or around the wa­ter cooler. Se­ri­ously, though: If our bosses are al­ready pay­ing for us to do yoga in the of­fice as a perk to keep us there, why shouldn’t we dress as if we’re ready to do it any­time, any­where?

An­other seller, on­line shop Car­bon38, of­fers a guide for wear­ing ath­leisure at work. Car­bon38 em­ploy­ees pose in their typ­i­cal work wear, out­fits such as an all-black, snug neo­prene dress with a match­ing jacket that has mesh sleeves. “A prep-in­spired top paired with a cool, printed pair of span­dex is my go-to look,” says one, out­fit­ted in Car­bon38’s $130 Polo­nium leg­gings, which fea­ture a gloomy sea printed on a poly-Ly­cra blend. “Ac­tive wear is def­i­nitely work-ap­pro­pri­ate,” says Caro­line Go­go­lak, co-founder and pres­i­dent.

Of course, the co-founder and pres­i­dent of an ac­tive-wear com­pany is go­ing to say that. The sec­tor’s week­end dom­i­nance hasn’t been enough to main­tain its growth; sales have fallen 6 per­cent since the be­gin­ning of 2015, ac­cord­ing to Sport­sOneSource, a data re­search firm. But that doesn’t make Go­go­lak wrong—brands have long spear­headed shifts in work­place fash­ion. This might be a painful mem­ory, but in the 1990s, Dockers khakis be­came part of the busi­ness-ca­sual uni­form for men be­cause of a mar­ket­ing cam­paign by par­ent com­pany Levi’s. Levi’s even cre­ated A Guide to Ca­sual Busi­ness

Wear to pro­mote looks that all hap­pened to in­cor­po­rate Dockers. It was mailed to 25,000 HR man­agers. There were sem­i­nars, fash­ion shows, and a toll-free num­ber for any­one with ques­tions.

Pro­fes­sion­als have busy lives, and it should be eas­ier to tran­si­tion from work to play. How sad is it that a Nielsen sur­vey found in 2016 that 75 per­cent of work­ing women change into less op­pres­sive cloth­ing when they get home? “With­out leg­gings, women are ba­si­cally stuck with work slacks, which are not ac­tu­ally things women wear any place but work and are pretty much uni­ver­sally un­flat­ter­ing and un­com­fort­able,” says El­iz­a­beth Cof­fin-Kar­lin, 27, a school ad­viser in San Fran­cisco. So if ath­leisure in the of­fice of­fends your sense of pro­pri­ety, get into a shavasana pose and take some deep breaths. Ev­ery­thing’s go­ing to be OK. <BW>

Ja­son Me­jias, 33, is an aeri­al­ist, acrobat, and cabaret per­former

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