As Above, Not So Below: Redefining Dress Code on Zoom Amid a Pandemic
By Tyler Lewis
In March, COVID-19 disrupted life as we know it, bringing most of the United States to a standstill. International travel ceased, domestic travel slowed, businesses limited foot traffic and schools adapted to distance learning. On March 16, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a stay-at-home order, which forced non-essential businesses to end operations until early May, when a gradual reopening began.
Universities and businesses moved meetings to the video conferencing app Zoom. With attendees being in the comfort of their own homes, dress code became a second thought. In April, a Florida judge requested that lawyers dress appropriately for Zoom meetings after one lawyer showed up without a shirt and another was in bed, under the covers.
Reporting Texas reached out to a few friends, acquaintances and colleagues to see what their Zoom meeting attire says about them. Herewith excerpts:
Tuck McLain, county court judge, Grimes County
In this photo, my wife [caught me off guard] after holding a court hearing over Zoom. The outfit says comfort and professionalism because in quarantine, you don’t have to choose.
Usually, I wear a full suit to court hearings, but on office days I generally wear slacks and a button-up. Regardless of either day, I always rock suspenders. Business on top, party on bottom is the only way to do it. If that’s not your style, you’re doing it wrong.
This outfit says it all. I’m reliable and professional but don’t mind a good kickback. My personality is very outgoing. I’ve been in politics for almost 30 years, so I love to socialize and joke around with anyone and everything. I think my quarantine fit represents how most everyone is feeling right now.
Mayzie Purviance, assistant editor, Western Ag Reporter
I am a northeast Texas native and currently live in Billings, Montana. I am the author of the blog, Activists vs. Agriculture. Although agriculture and news are both considered essential [in Montana], I was given the opportunity to practice social distancing and work from home. I chose this outfit because it represents my personality to a T. Comfy yet bold like my leggings and slippers, and professional yet fun like my blazer and tank top.
I always wear my maroon blazer to conferences and interviews, and this attire would’ve fit a Zoom meeting perfectly. My go-to Zoom meeting look is definitely business on top, comfy on the bottom. I actually recorded a video to be posted on my work’s social media pages with a nice blouse on top with pajama pants and fuzzy socks on the bottom.
Dustin Kemp, program coordinator, Texas A&M University
I’m from Lake Jackson, Texas, and currently work as the program coordinator for Capstone at LAUNCH at Texas A&M University. In this photo, I needed to take a headshot, and I wasn’t going to put on a whole suit. I’m serving you “Fake It Till You Make Realness” couture. I normally wear a polo and slacks, but I needed a bit of flare for this particular photo shoot. Either way, I didn’t want to dress up all the way. And the category is … “Quarantined During a Global Pandemic.” It’s easy to become complacent while working from home, but I have become an excellent baker.
Taylor Wildman, senior marketing student, Sam Houston State University
Business in the front, party in the back may have described the once fashionable mullet. … For me, it’s more, business up top, party on the bottom. When Covid-19 broke out we had to find a new way of living. For some that was homeschooling, working from home, and downloading face to face video. Zoom, Teams, Facetime, and Skype have all become staples in our new business model.
I choose to keep it fun and fresh. Opting for a business suit in frame, and casual wear out of frame. So why choose this look? It allows a sense of normalcy with the benefit of comfort. I am able to talk about the Japanese fish market sales, all the while letting my “freak flag fly” underneath the table. The best part is that my colleagues are none the wiser.
The dichotomy between these two looks is humorous, but also telling. It shows that, in the end, none of us really knows what we’re doing and we are just trying to seem “put together” as we struggle emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially. Moments like a simple outfit change can simply help you feel human. This new professional ensemble won’t last forever as Covid-19 very slowly decreases in America. Just like the mullet, it will soon be a faint memory and a talking point of decades to come. Just like the mullet, I hope it never comes back.
Jason Holiday, associate director, University of Houston
Being the associate director of the Gator Success Center at a university, [I] have a lot of meetings throughout the week. It gets kind of repetitive having to dress fully for Zoom Meetings. This outfit represents half business professional, half at-home casual. My go-to outfit for Zoom are basketball shorts and a nice button up or a T-shirt. I prefer this style because it gives you the freedom to change quickly into something comfortable after the meetings. This outfit shows that I am adaptable, that in any situation I can quickly perform. I feel the outfit represents that I can be very professional and also relax when it’s time to.
Christian McDonald, journalism professor, University of Texas at Austin
The photo was from the first day of online-only teaching. I wanted to dress more formal than I usually do to be something special, but to purposefully be informal below the waist. I joke that those are my “work slippers” in a respectable plaid in a shoe style, instead of my “leisure slippers” which are fuzzy material in clog style.
I normally wear jeans and short-sleeve collared shirts to work when going to the office. I love Dickies work jeans for the colors. When the temperature is 100+ I will wear nice shorts to the office. I would rarely wear athletic shorts outside the house unless I’m doing something physical. These days I just don’t care anymore.