In response to the steady creep of Covid-19, Guillermo Lauzurique was forced to start working from his Miami home on March 16. To commemorate the moment, the 28-year-old posted a photo to Twitter of himself in an outfit that can only be described as a business mullet: formal up top, party down below.
Above the waist, Mr. Lauzurique, who works for a mental health organization, was formally attired in a blazer, button-up shirt and tie. Under that, he had on nap-time gym shorts and socks. Since his daily grind now consists mostly of virtual video-based meetings in which he’s merely a torso and a talking head, he knew his colleagues would be none the wiser. By revealing his head-to-toe look on Twitter, however, Mr. Lauzurique underscored how professionals in the era of Covid-19 are using social media to explore, define and even parody what constitutes a proper work-from-home ensemble.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, just under a quarter of employed Americans did at least some of their work from home in 2018, the last year for which data is available. Over the last several days though, as coronavirus forced offices nationwide to close, many more of us have been thrust into working remotely, a jarring experience that has prompted new questions: Is it okay to stream “The Real Housewives” between meetings? Am I allowed to eat three breakfasts? And, maybe most importantly of all, what should I wear?
“Wear pants,” is the terse advice that Matthew Manos gives to WFH novices. Mr. Manos, 31, the founder of the design firm Verynice and an assistant professor of design at the University of Southern California, has worked remotely for the better part of a year and cautioned that “It’s really tempting to see working from home as an opportunity to basically never change out of your pajamas.”
Mr. Manos might be underestimating our collective creativity. For people who get a kick of clothing, this stressful moment is also a chance to amuse yourself and your colleagues (and your friends, if you’re among the bold souls posting WFH selfies on social media) by wearing something that defies an office dress code, or perhaps, something your coworkers would otherwise find peculiar.
Graham Gallagher 29, a Ph.D. student and teaching assistant in Florida, sees working from home as an opportunity to wear all the wonderful clothes he can’t normally break out. “In Florida, especially in spring, you don’t get a chance to wear a lot of formal clothing because it can sort of overheat you,” said Mr. Gallagher. Lucky him: These past few days, in his air-conditioned home, he’s been sliding up to his computer in ties, sweater vests, a tweed waistcoat and even dress shoes. The formality of it all, he said, helps to “get him in the space of working.”
The sartorial ingenuity of the teleworker is most prominently on display over at @wfhfits, an Instagram account that debuted less than two weeks ago, and posts user-submitted outfits (“fits” being the contracted slang) from its over 10,000 followers. On the page you’ll find a couple of blazer-and-short combos, also known as Zoom-call-casual; lots of squishy cardigans, the work-from-home equivalent of a blazer; and some more experimental neo-9-to-5 ideas like a striped kimono, a Sprite-branded sweatsuit and zebra leggings paired with a zebra skirt. The account exudes a “we’re all in this together” attitude and reinforces that right now, it’s okay to distract oneself by thinking about clothes, and even more okay to post them on the internet.
“A lot of people all of a sudden are like, ‘I’m so used to my routine of getting dressed and going out and all of a sudden I’m in my house,’” said Emily Hoeven, the sort of person who relishes picking out an outfit in the morning. Ms. Hoeven, 23, writes a newsletter for a nonprofit news organization in Sacramento, Calif., and is also a prolific Twitter user. She turned to the platform to boast about working at home in jeans, a departure from her normally prim office wardrobe. Wearing jeans instead of wool-blend slacks might sound like a subtle tweak, but the liberation that comes from working remotely manifests itself in different ways.
To be taken seriously at work, Samantha Butler, 32, a TV director in Burbank, Calif., feels the need to dress more formally than her mostly male colleagues. Being home-bound, she Tweeted, is a “blessing in disguise.” Now, she can forgo the heels and makeup. In an interview, Ms. Butler said that working remotely “completely changes my comfort level, which is huge.” Despite the circumstances, she’s looking forward to working from home “for a while.” She might not know when this crisis will be over, but for the time being, Ms. Butler has been happily relieved of the burden of dressing for success.
Write to Jacob Gallagher at Jacob.Gallagher@wsj.com
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