I began working from home about four years ago and initially I approached it with gusto – I would have a shower, apply makeup and fragrance, don casually tailored pants and a shirt, and slip on some loafers, at my desk by 10am.
That went downhill swiftly. You can catch me now, about 1pm, still wearing the t-shirt I slept in. I consider Birkenstocks to be a dress shoe.
Add sweltering summer temperatures and no air conditioning into the mix and, yeek, it’s not pretty.
I’ve taken to wearing $15 Uniqlo boxer shorts and singlets as actual clothes, 24/7.
It was 38 degrees at 9am the other morning and I thought to myself, “Fine, who needs to get dressed anyway, ever.”
I walked across the road to the corner shop and said nonchalantly, “Hi Rosie, how are you?” to the owner as if it were completely normal that a mature woman should pop over for a coffee in her pyjama shorts with bare feet.
I wore a swimsuit all day last week, at home in the lounge room, just in case I decided at some point to go to the beach. In fact, I’ve got one on now as I write this.
Keep it simple, stupid
But what to wear for those who have to actually front up to a place of business on these steamy days when it’s too hot even for long pants?
It’s easier for women as we have a variety of fashion choices when the temperature starts to climb.
Linen really is a lifesaver, great as a longer line, roomy dress, or a pair of loose, wide-leg pants that can be worn with a sleeveless top, or cotton t-shirt.
Keep your clothes simple, in natural fibres like cotton and silk and add the polish required for work via accessories such as bangles, or a chic platform espadrille.
Men can also think about loose-cut linen trousers put with a t-shirt, polo, or a white cotton shirt for the summer season, jacket optional.
The long and short of it
But the big question, for men and women, is around shorts. Are they appropriate for the office? I think yes, but with caveats.
I don’t care how hip and cool your workplace is, cut-off jean shorts are a no. But crisp tailored shorts are a fantastic option for the Australian office, if worn in the right way.
For women, longer line shorts look great with a pretty blouse, and a mid-heeled sandal (flats can make the look too casual, high heels too dressy) and of course they look great if the weather is cool enough to pair them with a blazer.
It’s a look you see in Asia a lot and I’ve often wondered why more women don’t wear them here. Sadly it’s probably because they are worried about their thighs, or their knees or ankles, anxieties that are not confined to women.
I’m surprised by how many men mention that they would like to wear shorts but worry about their legs being too skinny, too white etc.
Forget it. Other people don’t even notice, they do not give a toss. It took me 40 years to work that out about my upper arms, which was a very long time to be hot.
What men may want avoid is that dorky ’70s look of tight short shorts with a short-sleeved shirt and tie (complete with shoes and socks).
For the more classic male, much more handsome is the long-sleeved light cotton or linen shirt rolled up, with nicely tailored shorts that reach about mid thigh. Worn with boat shoes or loafers please – no socks.
If you must wear socks, wear a low-rise invisible sock with a pristine white sneaker.
Sandals are an option, but there would need to be serious foot/toenail inspection first. That definitely should be office policy.