If you don’t have this new item in your wardrobe, you could damage your career

While remote work continues on as the new norm, many Americans are ditching their professional wardrobes all together and embracing a life of sweats and other comfy loungewear. But what happens when the webcam turns on and it’s time for a business meeting? Enter the “Zoom shirt.” 

The Zoom shirt, a term coined by The New York Times, is a nice top that remote workers use to help them look more professional when a video meeting comes up. Keeping one or two options on the back of a chair makes it easy to throw on over your sweats when you get a call or have to check in for a morning meeting. 

According to Maria Rugolo, an apparel industry analyst for the NPD Group, her company conducted a poll that showed only 10% of people got dressed to work from home at the start of the day. This suggests most others are wearing comfy clothes throughout the day and slipping into a “Zoom shirt” for meetings as they arise. 

“Zoom shirts completely owe their popularity to COVID-19. In a matter of days, millions of workers went remote around the world,” Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, said. “That’s a massive shift in where and how we work, so it’s not surprising to see a corresponding change in what we’re wearing while we’re working.”

The numbers certainly support this mindset. A recent survey of 1,002 Americans who are working from home discovered that 49% wear an office-friendly top and casual pants when taking a video call. Only 6% admitted to wearing business attire at home regularly and 60% reported wearing sweatpants daily. 

Rugalo said this is to be expected, as humans have always looked for clothing to fit their specific needs and circumstances. 

“Clothing that solves problems is where consumers’ heads were even prior to COVID-19,” she said. “While quarantining at home during the pandemic, U.S. consumers continued to seek out comfort in their everyday wardrobe with nearly half stating that they wear the same clothes throughout most of the day.”

But choosing a Zoom top isn’t as simple as it may sound. It’s important to consider how the top you choose will come across on camera. Busy patterns will distort the image. Bright colors may appear overexposed. And a plunging neckline might not look as classy when the bottom half of your body is cut off. 

The New York Times also said, “Ironically, a garment that rarely leaves a single room needs the same qualities as a travel shirt: durable, easy to store, able to front in a variety of social settings. It also must come on and off in a flash.”

However, according to Taylor, you shouldn’t stress too much about this decision. Chances are, your colleagues have other things on their mind besides your wardrobe. 

“People are overwhelmed right now. We’ve had a pandemic, a recession, and protests across the country, so it’s possible that people are in fact noticing less,” Taylor said.

That being said, this trend doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, so embrace the comfort of loungewear and invest in a few simple zoom shirts to keep on hand when you need them. 

“The motto, ‘business on the top, party on the bottom’ has never been more relevant,” Kesha Linder, thredUP merchandiser, said. “With more time at home, people are looking at their closets for inspiration, and the Zoom shirt is the perfect way to stay comfortable while feeling put together for their work calls, virtual happy hours and more.”