Don't Worry About Your Roots or Your Sweatpants, the Pandemic Has Changed the Rules of Fashion Forever

Rose Bak

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I went to check in with one of my essential employees yesterday and as I drove away I caught a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror. I looked like I fell asleep with wet hair.

My hair was still damp from the shower, sticking out in all directions on one side and plastered to my head on the other.

“Oh my god, I just realized I didn’t comb my wet hair before I came here,” I texted her from the car.

I glanced down and realized my yoga pants were covered in dog hair and my shirt was wrinkled. I was wearing ancient gym shoes with holes at the toes.

“Oh my god!” I thought. “I can’t believe I’m leaving the house looking like this.”

Honestly, it had not even occurred to me to pay attention to how I looked before I left for work.

If this were an episode of What Not to Wear, Stacy and Clinton would be forcing me to watch a video montage of how I have been dressing lately while they made funny comments, and it would not be pretty.

Unlike many of the women featured on that old show, it’s not about me “giving up” or not caring about myself. It’s the pandemic.

Suddenly we are all way less concerned about how we look.

When people are scared and dying all around us, it reminds us about what is important. And with most of us teleworking anyway, the condition of your clothes is not that important in the scheme of things.

Normally the managers and admin staff at my workplace dress up — at least by Portland standards — but now the handful of us who are still going into the office at my work are mostly down to athleisure and comfortable old clothes.

My boss showed up last week wearing a suit jacket like it was pre-pandemic and I did a double-take. “Why are you dressed up?” I asked in confusion.

“It’s what separates working time from nonworking time,” he answered.

I shrugged and continued on my way, completely unconcerned about the t-shirt and hoodie look I was rocking.

Later that day I went to Walgreens and I saw someone who was wearing pajama bottoms and flip flops.

“That looks comfortable,” I thought, with no judgment.

Six months ago, that person likely would have been on one of those appearance-shaming social media sites like "the People of Walmart".

The never-ending pandemic has changed many things, but I would argue one of the most significant is our appearance. I never realized that most people get their hair cut more than twice a year until about three weeks into lockdown when everyone on social media started bemoaning the fact that they could not get their hair done.

Kelly Rippa showing fans her grey roots made headlines around the world. In a world obsessed with appearance, suddenly showing your natural hair color is an act of bravery.

I imagine the transition has been the hardest for those with money and privilege. In a world where many people don’t have the money to change their hair color or hide their facial flaws, the lockdowns have been a great equalizer.

First, we started seeing people’s real hair. I’ve been surprised how many of us are naturally gray.

Then we started seeing people with their natural eyebrows. Make-up and fancy manicures went to the wayside.

Now we are all mostly wearing whatever is clean – on top at least, because that’s all we see. And most of us are sporting ponytails or messy buns. In one meeting recently four out of five of us were wearing a baseball hat. You would never see that in our “real life” meetings.

As lockdowns and social distancing continue, I’m looking forward to the day when it’s acceptable to go out in public without a bra or shoes. That is my dream scenario. In fact, when I retire in a few years I plan to proudly go barefoot and braless.

“We don’t care how we look anymore,” I said to my roommate as I returned from that outside meeting with my team.

“It’s about time,” she answered.

She’s right. It is about time.

#pandemic #fashion #hairstyle #nails #clothing

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Rose Bak is a freelance writer who lives in Portland, Oregon with her family and special needs dogs. She writes on a variety of topics including local news, homelessness, poverty, relationships, yoga, and aging. She is also a published author of romantic fiction. For more of Rose's work, visit her website at rosebakenterprises.com or follow her on social media @AuthorRoseBak.

Portland, OR
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