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The Rise (and Slouch) of the Casual Office Bastard

Strap on your Tevas. The trashy new workplace dress code is coming — whether your boss is ready or not

Do you wear a tie to work? Then I’m guessing you’re, like, a lawyer — or maybe the president. Possibly a Condé Nast intern. Or you’re in a wedding band? Most of the professional world has moved on, man, and nobody can stop us. We’re past Casual Friday and Hawaiian Shirt Monday and every corporate fashion concession; the entire week is casual, Hawaiian patterns are always in, and there is no dress code, brother.

OK, maybe there is a dress code. But it’s crumbling fast, and that’s if an employer has actually bothered to think of one. For every dude who accidentally crosses the line by wearing a tank top at the office, there are a dozen pushing the envelope with success.

Yes, it is the Age of the Casual Office Bastard.

Wherefore this sudden trashification? As with so many trends, the causes are scattered yet cumulative. On the footwear front, everyone wants to show off their ugly, sporty sandals these days. Above the ankle, athleisure — and now workleisure — are likely here to stay: If Jeff Bezos dresses like he just power-walked in from the Adirondacks, why can’t we? Anti-formal aesthetics like normcore have eroded old ideas about office-appropriate clothing, too. Then you have the gig economy, in which many work from home, taking meetings over Google Hangouts, where pants are strictly optional. Apart from avoiding so much that’s toxic about cramming everyone into one floor of a commercial building, remote workers outperform their office peers—all without being forced to overspend on big-city rent or budget absurdly for fitted dress shirts.

Casual office bastardwear is a big middle finger to baby boomers whose well-paying careers allowed them to buy the suits in American Psycho as they ruined the economy for us. Hmm, do I want to scrounge around the Banana Republic outlet for some $80 khakis I can spill coffee on during the very next morning’s commute, or would I rather buy groceries for the week? Please. My employer is lucky I don’t show up in pajamas, which is apparently the norm elsewhere:

We can’t pretend there isn’t an aspect of male privilege here. Working women are unfairly reprimanded for an infinite variety of absurd sartorial violations, and dress codes are generally sexist by their nature. The first job I had out of college was at a trade publication in New York where almost everyone was attired as if for a classic 20th-century newspaper gig — except me. I was a fucking slob. I wore jeans, sneakers and sleazy, wrinkled V-neck T-shirts. Eventually, a staff-wide email went out, sternly advising us that we were a place of business, not a nightclub, and should calibrate our appearance as such. I worried that I’d have to sharpen up overnight, but then I realized something: My Great Recession piece-of-shit hipster vibe wouldn’t have gotten me into any club in a 7-mile radius. I soon found out that the email was intended for some women colleagues in sales who had dared to show up in comfortable sleeveless shirts.

Meanwhile, I could’ve gotten away with a mesh tube top and a Speedo. Ridiculous.

If you boys are as sick of this double standard as I am, you can become a good ally by refusing to cross a higher style threshold than “dirtbag beach bum.” It’s my hope that by putting virtually zero effort into my outfits (Did I remember to put on underwear? Who knows!), I will help to erode the unfair baseline expectations women have to consider each time they open the closet to figure out an appropriate office ensemble.

I mean, come on. Nobody should have to think remotely hard about how they’re throwing garments over their meat-sack of a body to earn a paycheck. Not beyond “are my genitalia exposed,” anyway. Wearing a blazer makes a certain amount of sense if it’s at your Bar Mitzvah, where you’re trying to impress God, or at a dinner with your in-laws, to convince them you aren’t destitute — but at work, to satisfy a boss who’s two years younger than you? Eat my entire ass. I’ll clock in wearing a gimp mask if I feel like it.

Capitalism owes us. We can’t let its bitter bureaucrats win this war when victory would mean so much for our side, and defeat would be all but academic to them. Leave the required uniforms to fascist cops and… I don’t know, Disney theme park characters? If everyone’s going to be miserable toiling away in a bland industry they wish they’d never heard of but are now too old to transition from, they should do so in threads that aren’t dry-clean only, goddamn it.

Sure, I also happen to believe that embracing the right to screw-it laziness or eccentricity in “white-collar” garb is a crucial step toward eventually securing the universal standards of a three-day weekend and 20-hour work week, but let’s not get that far ahead of the issue at hand. Point is, we deserve to be ourselves, to look like ourselves, not the stock photo drones in a pamphlet explaining our health insurance plan. Take it from me, a man who wears flip-flops, shorts and a tank top to work.

Plus a hoodie — in case it gets cold.