Sunday, April 18

Reflections: Trending fashion is that we’re becoming slobs


Neiman Marcus.

Brooks Brothers.

Men’s Wearhouse.

Ann Taylor.

All have filed for bankruptcy.

And you know what that means. We’re all going to look like slobs.

It’s already happened.

The remote work, social distancing and face masks have crushed whatever sartorial dash we had prior to the pandemic. The pandemic has sharpened our priorities.

Among COVID-19’s collateral damage has been this: Vanity.

I had a slender hold on vanity when this pandemic began. Now that we’re in the sixth month, I’ve completely released any pretense that I can look any better than that frightening creature who tumbles out of bed in the morning.

Perhaps it’s that I’m working from home most of the time.

On the days when I do come into the newsroom, my idea of looking sharp has, well, considerably dulled. My goal, outside of getting my work done, is to see as few people as possible. My anemic feint toward style has been degraded by a mortal fear of illness.

Besides, I haven’t mastered the panache that allows me to wear that chic pinstriped suit while wearing a kn95 mask that makes me look like a toucan.

Since the pandemic, I have not worn one suit, or one set or heels, or a single dress or signature pair of gabardine pants.

Worse, I have worn no makeup.

Check that. That’s actually the single upside of the pandemic – escaping that mortar they call makeup. I look like a freckle-faced bowl of oatmeal, but I don’t care. What is the point of walking into the office with lip liner dribbling out of my facemask if no one but I know it is there? Why bother with bronzer, lipstick or concealer when everything is concealed? Who was I fooling, anyway? Did I really think a little bit of Almay would convince anybody I was Juliette Binoche?

My entire summer wardrobe – such as it is – hangs suspended from my closet, embalmed in dry cleaner bags.

Evidently, so is everybody else’s. In April, sales of new clothes plummeted 79% in the U.S., the largest dive on record, The New York Times Magazine reports. Meanwhile, the magazine reports, sales of sweatpants were up 80%.

A survey by OnePoll on behalf of Nutrisystem found that 46% say they’ve only been wearing sweatpants or yoga pants during quarantine. A full 28% can’t remember the last time they wore pants.

Evidently, we need those sweatpants because the same survey reported that 76% of responders said they’d gained an average of 16 pounds.

My work wardrobe has been shaved to my trademark L.L. Bean Bayside Twills, which I now have in every color. This and two fraying polo shirts has been my work attire for the last six months.

The upside of this has been that the American savings rate has swelled to historic records, even as it has liquidated savings among the poor and unemployed. The U.S. personal savings rate jumped to 32% in April, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. During the same period, consumer spending fell 12.6%, the bureau reported.

We’re not spending as much on entertainment (minus 34%), personal care (minus 35%) or travel (minus 53%), according to the budget-tracking app

Whether we will return to professional office attire when this pandemic ends is one of the pressing questions for our economy and our culture.

Many of us may relish the chance to put our best face on, as they say. But a generation accustomed to sweatpants may be hard-pressed to give them up

Tracey O’Shaughnessy writes “Sunday Reflections.” Email her at

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