Across the nation, people returning to offices are struggling to put on structured pants, tops and blazers after more than two years in PJs, sweats and yoga pants.
Restrictive clothing like pencil skirts, underwire bras and high-heeled shoes are out and retailers are taking note, scrambling to meet new needs of people who want to wear sneakers to work, according to data from market research firm NPD Group and retailers.
“With the pandemic instilling in consumers a new appreciation for being outside, revenue and unit sales for hiking shoes are projected to continue their healthy annual rise through 2023,” NPD reported late last year. The biggest news in the retail world of shoes, according to Matt Powell, sports industry adviser at NPD, “is the growth of running, walking and hiking shoes.”
But what does that even mean in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, where we’ve always dressed like there’s a pandemic, favoring fleece, cozy parkas and hiking boots over suits and high heels.
How much more low-key can we go?
“I hope to God we don’t get more casual than we already are,” said Kat Sprudzs, store manager at Freeman Seattle.
“I feel like Seattle has potential as a fashion city, but people have to first realize you don’t have to be ready to hike at all times. You can wear normal outfits that aren’t from REI and change before you go hiking. You can wear cute things,” she said.
Because the Seattle-based company has always been known for its raincoats and high-end clothing, Sprudzs has seen little change in the kind of clothes people are buying since the pandemic.
People are buying new pants, and perhaps that’s because the old ones don’t fit — no judgment! — but they’re in the same comfy styles that were popular before. Take for example the $200 Knit Trousers by Japanese company Jackman, which Sprudzs says are flying off the shelves.
Fashioned after baseball uniforms, they have buttons and belt loops in the front and elastic in the back.
“I call them mullet pants,” Sprudzs said. “Business in the front, party in the back.”
One thing that has changed, however, are the colors that residents of Seattle and the PNW are gravitating toward these days.
At Prism and the ZebraClub in Seattle, sales clerks said shoppers are looking for summer dresses and shorts in bright colors.
The previous front-runners of navy, gray and black are sitting, Sprudzs said, and she’s seeing people wear lilac, green, mauve, burnt orange and teal instead.
“Usually, we will have a fun, attention-grabbing color, and that’s the one they look at but not the one they buy,” she said.
“But that’s changed. People are tired of navy and gray. They’re tired of being sad. They want to meet people, wear bright colors and have fun,” she said.
Share how your wardrobe has changed in the form below. Feel free to answer in haiku form! We’ll share our favorite responses next week.
Read about more workplace issues that employees and companies are facing: