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Flip-flops and stretchy pants: Workers look different as they wander back into the office

Jesse Bunch, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Fashion Daily News

PITTSBURGH — Picture a mortgage adviser — what is he or she wearing? Probably a suit and polished shoes. Now picture that same employee a year and a half into a global pandemic that upended schedules, shuttered offices, and multiplied workloads.

According to Jonathan Freed, a managing partner at Holland Mortgage Advisors, dress pants are out, shorts and flip-flops are in.

Freed said his employees’ workload increased threefold over the pandemic, and some employees were clocking hours almost seven days a week. Much of this work was remote.

“Why would I then go and bust their chops about coming back in the office or what they’re wearing?” he said.

Before the pandemic, employees at Holland Mortgage Advisors dressed in business casual — golf polos, khaki pants, dress shoes. As employees trickle back into the office, that dress code has been axed, and an “anything goes” approach has taken its place.

As offices continue to open their doors, many managers are offering more flexible dress policies that cater to a workforce that has become accustomed to wearing sweatpants, sandals and baggy T-shirts. “I think this is a societal shift in the way we view work, and dress, and all that,” Freed said. “I don’t think this is going back.”


RareMed Solutions, a health care software company, has a select group of employees back in the office, with most still working remotely for the foreseeable future. That means business operations, human resources, and IT workers are still coming in, but dressed down.

“I think we call it more like a smart casual, where it's much more flexible,” said Dr. Douglas Gebhard, president and general manager of RareMed Solutions. “No one’s wearing dress pants or jackets or dress shirts into the office, even Monday through Thursday.”

Gebhard, a pharmaceutical doctor, says that pre-pandemic, casual Fridays gave employees more freedom from the more formal codes then in place. That’s a tradition that’s long gone.

“What used to be our look on Friday is now pretty much what it is every day, with the exception of if we have a client on site,” he said.


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