How relaxed can dress codes get before we are all wearing our pajamas to work? Jeans and flip-flops are now acceptable pretty much anywhere, Juicy Couture has made sweatsuits into fashion items, and the concept of "jacket and tie required" is practically archaic. In the past fifteen years, corporate attire has gone from three piece suits every day of the week to polos and khakis on casual Friday - and now many offices are going casual everyday. Even Wall Street, traditionally a conservative stronghold when it comes to fashion, does casual Friday now. The change is clearly here to stay.
But why? Americans have always been a little more relaxed than the rest of the world, but has there been such a huge shift in the past few decades? There are two major reasons: the huge growth in the internet and technology sectors (both inherently casual industries) and the fact the baby boomers are getting older and consequently desire more comfortable clothing. It was the dot.com boom and rise in telecommuting ("you can work at home in your sweatpants!") that made it okay to wear sweats and grubby jeans, well, everywhere. And thanks to the aging boomers and young teens, the two largest demographics in the U.S., we have more casual, comfortable options to choose from than ever.
Now you can go everywhere from the corner store to the opera in your sweatpants; fashion has truly been democratized. This may not be a positive thing, however. Do you really want to live in a world where people think "dressed up" is a clean pair of jeans?
But how will you choose? When solving the fashion conundrum of overdressing vs. underdressing, go with overdressed every time. This doesn't mean wearing a pinstripe suit while everyone else has on jeans, but make the effort to look good. Wear a velvet blazer instead of a sweatshirt, or a sleek pencil skirt instead of cords. You'll stand out in a good way.
Now, the fashionable Kiffen does not advocate going out in clothing that really shouldn't be seen in public, like holey jeans or worn-to-death tees. In fact, it is a shame that an ensemble consisting of velour pants and a matching hoodie is considered "well-dressed". That said, wearing nicely fitted jeans with a cashmere hoodie over a pretty camisole, for instance, has the same comfort level but looks ten times better. Don't give in the temptation to be sloppy because everyone else is doing it.