The XX Factor

“Workout Wear Friday” Is Not a Thing

“Gray dress pant yoga pants.”


It’s Friday! You know, the workday that lies between you and a full 48 hours of leisure. And the day that you wear yoga pants to work, exercise with your colleagues, and then sit in your stanky workout clothes until you clock out at 6. At least, that’s what the Washington Post’s Vicky Hallett is suggesting America’s workers do in “The Case for Workout Wear Friday.”

Her proposal: Instead of casual Friday, companies should encourage their employees to wear their exercise clothes to the office as an incentive to work out. “The basic premise is that people in fitness gear are more likely to exercise — or at least to think about it,” Hallett writes. “So let’s get everyone in comfortable, moisture-wicking outfits once a week to demonstrate our commitment to physical activity.”

She’s basing this premise on a 2004 study that showed that people who wore casual clothes to the office took almost 500 more steps than people who wore dress clothes. That makes sense: You’re going to walk around more in sneakers than you will in heels. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that you’re going to go for a run because you’re wearing stretchy pants instead of jeans. (Hallett acknowledges there is no research to back this up, but she also dedicates an entire column to the cockamamie idea.)

Anyway, who needs proof when you have a human resources expert? “To make the idea stick, he’d also throw in a planned physical activity for offices to do together as a team — maybe a morning group walk on the Mall,” Hallett writes. “Then participants could be allowed to wear those clothes the rest of the day as an incentive.”

Sigh. It’s a sorry day in American work life when it’s a “reward” to wear your sweaty T-shirt and sneakers for the rest of the day. I’m all for companies incentivizing exercise with subsidized gym memberships or bonuses for bicycle commuting. But the notion that companies are going to encourage you to outwardly demonstrate your commitment to exercise via outfit choice is coercive and gross. It reminds me of other New Year, New You office trends like company juice cleanses and office weight-loss competitions. Blah blah blah wellness: Your personal level of fitness should be your own damn business—not your employer’s.

Of course, the employer focus on exercise is a side effect of the fact that our health insurance is linked to our employment in the U.S. Hallett makes the case for Workout Wear Friday in part because it’s good for employers—a fitter workforce uses the company medical plan less often, which saves them money. It’s worth noting that it’s not clear that company fitness incentives even work that way—in fact, fear of penalties, like for smoking, might be more effective. I would bet that people need more than the dubious “prize” of wearing yoga pants to work to adopt an active lifestyle. But mainly my point is: No one should ever wear yoga pants meant to look like dress pants. Leggings with “business-slack features” are still leggings.