The Story of What Happens When Bad Clothes Meet Corporate America

30 August 2015

Fashion Real: When Bad Clothes Meet Corporate America

by Raegan Thurlow, Part-Time Fashionista; illustration by Mark Armstrong

If you’ve sold Kool-Aid at a lemonade stand in the not too distant past (the pre-30 crowd):

When you hear “business casual”, do you think jeans and a polo? Or are you reaching for basketball shorts and a hoodie at 9:00 Friday morning? Some employees choose to express their discontent by complaining while others take 2-hour lunch breaks (during which time their phones are mysteriously out of cell range). Others still take casual Friday to the next level – a level that belongs nowhere near the corporate world.

My good friend is what is referred to as a Millennial. He’s 28 and doesn’t take crap from anybody. While working at a particularly heinous job offering loans at a ridiculously inflated interest rate to poor schmucks trying to start their own businesses, he decided that simply muttering “this is bullshit” at his desk wasn’t really grabbing anyone’s attention the way he’d hoped.

That’s when he came up with “just rolled out of bed Friday.”

Had it been winter, he may very well have worn a robe into the office. As it was summer, his basketball shorts, wife beater, and hoodie had to suffice. This is not a good look – when you’re at the office, when you’re near an office, when you’re sitting on your couch watching “The Office”… it’s just not a good look. But it is a great way to get out of a job that is sucking the life and fashion sense out of you. Well played!

We get it, okay. You’re young, you consider yourself to be smarter than anyone in the office with “VP” in their title, and you barely make enough money to afford a root beer with lunch. You’re feisty, you’re fearless, you’re fashion and corporate-clueless. You’ve been out of college for a few years and are mentally reliving your days as keg-master while daydreaming at your desk.

But it’s time to splash some water on your face and to throw a buttondown over your undershirt. There’s no such thing as “T-shirt Tuesday,” and deodorant isn’t an optional accessory. If you ever want your chance to dumb it down as a VP one day, you’re going to need to play the game for a bit (now entering flip flop-free zone).

If you’re drinkin’ the Kool-Aid (the 30+ crowd):

Wearing Sevens at your nine-to-five? Okay, while I’m glad to see that your jeans’ tag doesn’t read “Kirkland Signature,” I am curious as to where you found such ill-fitting designer jeans. It’s not just about the brand, dear, it’s about the fit.

It’s casual Friday and you’ve dropped your 3-year-old off at daycare and are now heading into the office. Judging by the looks of things on the back of your shirt, she had oatmeal for breakfast. But what’s really concerning me is that you’re obviously prepared for a flood that no one on the Weather Channel has warned me about. Nice socks, by the way.

Office casual is The Man’s way of rewarding you for a job well done. He’s saying “Let down your hair! You’re not receiving that well-deserved raise you’ve been pestering me about, but for god’s sake, you can wear denim.”

This is your moment to shine, not your moment to scare the overworked receptionist. Find a decent mirror and a critical friend who will unabashedly inform you that your lack of derriere is all too apparent in the jeans you’re wearing. Start dressing like you deserve a raise, not like you’re trying to raise eyebrows/your pant legs.

Regardless of your age and occupation, avoiding looking like a total tool bag needs to be on the priority list. It’s time to fan the flames of success – so light a match and throw your wardrobe on top of it. In the words of Flight of the Conchords, it’s business, it’s business time!


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By day, Raegan Thurlow works as a mild-mannered tech executive. At night, she dons a 100% cashmere cape and becomes a fashion writer looking to rip into trends for a living.

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