Image courtesy Fruit of the Loom

Not Your Father’s Workplace: The Millennial Dress Code Era

Angie Bybee is the vice president of design for Fruit of the Loom and JERZEES, a global designer and manufacturer of family apparel, athletic apparel, and sporting equipment brands including Fruit of the Loom, Spalding, and Russell Athletic.

The reality of a modern workplace makes pantyhose, power suits, and pocket squares a thing of the past. We’re living in an age that values comfort and versatility, being Instagram-ready as soon as the clock strikes five. Whether or not companies get with the millennial program is at their discretion, but one thing’s for certain—millennials aren’t dressing up for their day job. Not on their iWatch.

We’re witnessing an interesting, yet not surprising, shift to casualization in the modern-day workplace. Millennials, born between 1981 and 1995, are notorious for trendsetting. By 2025, three out of every four workers will be a millennial, according to Time magazine. So, with these constantly-changing trends, that means decorators need to keep up.

“As millennials continue to surge into the workplace, no individual or industry is safe from the changing tides of office formality,” says Ryan Jenkins, keynote speaker, author, columnist, and millennial. 

There are, of course, options in the midst of these changing clothing trends, so decorators need not worry. Companies are starting to rely on branded gear to deal with the dress code elephant in the room. Comfortable sport shirts that are fashionable, readily available, and easy to accessorize are what’s for dinner, and millennials are eating it up.

“Millennials’ entrance into the workforce really facilitated the athleisure movement in the workplace and elevated the need for performance in uniforms,” Angie Bybee, VP of Design at Fruit of the Loom, declares. Bybee heads up a team that researches trends both domestically and internationally to drive innovation and future strategy in new product design.

According to Bybee, those born from 1996 to 2010, called “Generation Z,” have been even more impactful to the casualization movement than millennials.

“They’re really the performance generation. Performance in clothing is all that they’ve known, and this puts an even greater emphasis on comfort, performance, and style, even in uniforms,” Bybee adds. “Schools are big sport shirt users, especially with private schools where there’s a mandated dress code or uniform.”

Luckily for decorators, this opens up a world of potential clients at every turn. Schools and hospitality jobs, like restaurants, country clubs, and hotels, will be the frontrunner in this movement, needing branded gear to make their students and employees cohesive and comfortable.

(All images courtesy JERZEES)

“The need for stain release is crucial in both channels of distribution,” Bybee says. “Sport shirts are the ultimate athleisure silhouette for the workplace. They’re the perfect blend of casual and business.”

Given the versatility of casual wear, it seems most industries will have to jump on that bandwagon sooner rather than later. With the youngest millennials at 22 years old, making an aggressive push into the workplace and Gen Zers finishing school and applying for jobs, the workplace will undoubtedly bend to their will.

“Since more than half of job seekers said a company’s dress code is either very important or moderately important when it comes to accepting a job offer, companies are using flexible dress codes as a way to attract talent…especially millennials,” Jenkins says.

But there are more ways to catch the eye of a millennial or Gen Zer, and that comes after the clothing choice: the decoration factor. Decorators everywhere need reliable fabric that’s designed to last the wear and tear of the hospitality and school industries.

“It is crucial that our products are on point but still deliver to performance needs for the decorator and end consumer,” Bybee says.

It’s clear that although workplaces are becoming more casual, it’s fitting those who will begin to run them—millennials and Gen Z alike. As trends change, it’s important for decorators to know how to keep up. What we know for certain? Comfortability, versatility, and style will rule the workplace for the foreseeable future.