Even in scorching heatCEOs basically tell employees to “eat my shorts” – and please don’t wear them. While the pandemic has introduced a taste of casual work into the office, the norms that reigned supreme decades ago seem to have remained. The problem, in part, is that Earth’s temperature is changing at a faster rate than our society, leaving workers sweating through their pants.
A new Wall Street Journal/Ipsos poll found that shorts at work are still a subject of debate. Looking specifically at attitudes towards menswear, they found that a whopping 41% said it was never appropriate for men to wear shorts to the office – no climate change exceptions allowed. To be sure, 48% of respondents said it can sometimes be appropriate to wear shorts to work and 10% said it’s always appropriate.
Women and non-binary workers, whose clothing choices were not part of the survey, have a different set of rules to follow. In theory, for once, women have a bit more freedom than men in the workplace, as they can wear cooler clothes, including skirts and dresses. But there is of course more than meets the eye to this wardrobe requirement. Dress rules are largely set by those at the top, who are still largely cishet men and skirts are therefore an inherently weighted choice made for what the male gaze deems appropriate at work, “With shorts or, for women, an inappropriate skirt, you emphasize the lower half (of your body). You don’t want to emphasize the lower part of your body. Mary Lou Andre, editor of DressingWell.com, told the Chicago Grandstand in 2013. And non-binary employees find themselves in a difficult situation, like El Layla Johnson said The New York Times in June this year: “(they) feel like there’s a manual or a rulebook that people get and my copy got lost in the mail.”
Meanwhile, the urgency of climate catastrophe was impossible to ignore this summer, as it was felt in the air and the searing heat. In July, the globe had a barbecue, as the world reached the highest temperature never recorded. Paleoclimate scientist Darrell Kaufman, who specializes in finding prehistoric evidence of climate from long ago, finds a widely reported statistic to be inaccurate: that daily temperatures are the highest in 100,000 years. However, the rate at which the earth is warming tells him that by the end of the century, it will be the hottest in millions of years.
This type of heat is not only uncomfortable, it is deadly: as study from the Barcelona Institute of Global Health and INSERM, the French health research institute, estimated that more than 61,000 heat-related deaths occurred last summer. In the USA, Phoenix is boiling with record levels, and across the ocean the Mediterranean is burning, as heat waves turn into fire in Greece.
Yet, even though we have other things to focus on, shorts seem like just a fashion faux pas too far.
The back-to-the-office pants debate
As our world continues to heat up without any drastic government intervention, many employees, at least in America, are simply taken back to headquarters with emails that scream that the “desktop is not optional.” Even though the pandemic has subsided, the climate is different than it was just three years ago. And yet the office is fossilized, like a gift shop lollipop with a Scorpion stuck inside, stuck in the time of a pair of pants.
The general consensus seems to be that corporate America is not yet ready to change uniforms, to hell with climate change. Rules about shorts run deep in the nation, as fashion historian Heather Vaughan Lee said NPR in 2015: “This Puritan background has continued to influence governments—and other governing bodies—that seek to control the outward appearance of Americans, either as written law or as cultural norms.”
Puritans echoed an age-old European fashion stigma against shorts – they were something only boys worenever a young man. New York Times critical Vanessa Friedman traces this as far back as the court of the British royal family, writing that the standard “largely derives from royal tradition” where boys were not allowed to wear trousers until they were 8 years old. As many other reviews, Friedman ruled that shorts and work clothes were allowed, but not without certain rules, insisting that “you might end up exposing more than your knees”, if you dare to choose a more weatherproof outfit. It took hundreds of years to shake this mentality, because pants weren’t really accepted for women until the 1930sand short bans were issued across the state 1940s.
After all, tradition can be hard to shake, especially for older generations who have lived with a specific overriding attitude all their lives. The poll found the same, with baby boomers most likely to rate shorts as never acceptable, at 57%. Other generations are, well, colder to the idea of wearing shorts to work. As many as 75% of millennials found it always or sometimes acceptable to wear partial pants to work. Curiously, that number jumped to 67% for Gen Z with Gen X at 56%.
Even though fashion is slowly changing on the catwalks and in the office, our cravings are in another place these days. A recent Deloitte survey found that many were tired of wearing suits (45%) and dress pants or shirts (31%), and around a third said they would rather take a 10% pay cut than dress up in the office. Indeed, remote work has imposed itself in a new, more casual wardrobe.
Some suggest that for men, it’s still not the season for shorts. In 2011, the great male couturier Tom Ford issued its infamous edict that “shorts should only be worn on the tennis court or on the beach”, adding that a city dweller “should never wear shorts”. THE fashion world has changed drastically since then, as gender and dress norms have slowly been destabilized both globally and globally. workplace.
Even though women somehow have a little more leeway to show off their legs or wear other things like skirts or dresses on those unbearable climate crisis days at work, those rules on clothing are largely written by officials, who are always often men. With more fashion choices, women have more gender rules to follow at work, according to researchers from the conversation“various research found that women’s perceptions of the workplace are still influenced by the way they dress, often in ways that men’s perceptions are not,” the authors note.
It seems that the shorts are not yet what is hot– although men will literally start to overheat if we don’t change our carbon emissions or our attitudes towards gendered office wear. Whatever comes first, I guess. Ultimately, it is men’s limitations to societal norms and fashion that will simply lead to their lack of comfort.