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Walking into an office in the early 2000’s meant seeing suits, pantsuits, dresses, dress shoes and heels. Walking into an office in 2021 means seeing very few people working due to COVID-19, and those who are working in the office are more relaxed– wearing what would’ve been a casual Friday outfit 20 years ago, which means maybe a nice shirt, jeans and sneakers.

In the early 2000’s professionalism meant looking modest, with an emphasis on dress-code. As fashion advice from TLC’s What Not To Wear came into play, pantsuits were popularized once more.

The typical office look did not stray far from what was depicted in movies during this time period. Think of Devil Wears Prada. The outfits in this movie consisted of extravagant pantsuits, dresses and shoes. It showed what professionalism attire meant during the beginning of the 21st Century.

Let’s fast forward about 20 years– times have changed, especially with COVID-19. People are working from home, they are getting more comfortable with the idea of staying home, and most people don’t dress up for their conference calls anymore. When the pandemic first began, there were trending Tik Tok’s showing people with proper attire on the top, and pajama pants on the bottom– proving that these trying times were changing the meaning of dressing up for work.

Even with going back to the office, the dress code is more relaxed. People are dyeing their hair fun colors, some even have facial piercings, or more than just the standard ear piercing, both men and women can have visible tattoos — it’s quite literally a whole new world, however this isn’t the case for all offices. Still though, you might ask, what changed?

People are realizing that their image has nothing to do with work ethic. People who have piercings and tattoos are just as capable of working an office job as someone who doesn’t. Tattoos and hair color have been accepted as a way for people to express themselves– this is something that has been seen more as the younger crowds go into work spaces. Managers have become more relaxed, likely due to millennials making their way into the workforce.

From first-hand experience in the journalism world– those who are behind the scenes and behind the screens have arm sleeves, nose piercings and fun colored hair. It isn’t always boring and bland with them, just as with every company.

We were born into a world filled with creativity– people love to express themselves through different things– and this idea of people using their body as a canvas is finally seeping through to the professional world.

Regardless of dress code, tattoos and piercings, the professional standard for women is changing too. Women used to be expected to have make-up on and do their hair everyday, and now, although women do one or both of these things each day, it isn’t something that many feel required to do in a workspace.

This goes for people of color, too. For years, POC have been fighting for the right to style their natural hair however they desire. With this fight comes discrimination from within the workplace. Laws are now being considered to protect people of color from this discrimination.
Due to working from home natural beauty is being embraced now more than ever. Women roll out of bed, put their hair up and go for a no make-up look. This is something that would’ve never happened before, but with changing times, it’s being accepted by the current work-force.

The meaning of professionalism is no longer a cookie cutter term. It continues to grow and develop each day and with each generation. With this growth, the world of professionalism is bound to look completely different once again in 20 years.

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