The Star (Jamaica)
Casual work attire is new fashion trend
Data from market research firm NPD Group and retailers has shown shifting trends in office fashion in the United States of America.
Wire-free bras now represent more than 50 per cent of the total non-sports bra market in the US, reversing a long-term trend, according to NPD. Sales of dressy footwear have been rebounding since 2021, but they’re still 34 per cent below 2019 levels and more likely fueled by the return of social occasions, not the office, NPD said. Instead, casual sneakers are now the most common shoes for work.
Clothing rental company Rent the Runway said rentals for blazers were up nearly twofold in February from last year, reflecting a return to offices. But its customers are choosing colourful versions like pastel and fabrics like lightweight tweed, linens and twill. “Business formal” rentals — traditional workwear like basic sheaths, pencil skirts and blazers — are roughly half of what they were in 2019, said Anushka Salinas, president and chief operating officer.
Stitch Fix, a personal shopping and styling service, noted men are increasingly choosing options like hiking and golf pants for the office. For the first three months of the year, revenue for that type of clothing was up nearly threefold over a year ago. Polo shirts have replaced the collared buttondown for men, and there’s strong demand for pull-on pants, the company said. The ratio of elasticwaist work pants to those with buttons or zippers on Stitch Fix was one to one in 2019; now it’s three to one.
Retailers had to pivot to Americans’ changing demands throughout the pandemic, and now again with many returning to offices. Upscale department store Nordstrom, for example, has opened women’s denim shops to highlight its expanded selection as it sees more women wearing jeans to work.
Even Ministry of Supply, a company looking to make work clothing as comfortable as exercise wear, had to make big changes. When the pandemic hit, it was stuck with piles of tailored pants and jackets in performance fabrics deemed irrelevant for a remote workforce.
As workers return to the office, Ministry of Supply is keeping those relaxed looks and sneaker cuts and has permanently eliminated zippers — all its pants have elastic waistbands or drawstrings. It’s also reinventing its tailored suit.
The 200-year-old haberdashery Brooks Brothers had a bigger challenge — it never followed the casual office attire trend several years ago like its rivals. Under a new owner and CEO Ken Ohashi, the company has found success in offering relaxed styles in a post-bankruptcy reinvention.
Now, 45 per cent of its offerings are casual sportwear like sweaters and polo shirts. Before the pandemic, that figure was 25 per cent, Ohashi said.
He said dress shirts are making a comeback as workers return to the office.
But Brooks Brothers is adding a twist: a stretch version of its cottonknit shirts with the comfort of a polo.
It also is offering colourful jackets.