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How Zoom shirts became the new work-from-home wardrobe staple

Do you have a Zoom shirt yet?
"The motto, ‘business on the top, party on the bottom’ has never been more relevant."
"The motto, ‘business on the top, party on the bottom’ has never been more relevant."Getty Images/TODAY
/ Source: TODAY

Over the last few months, many Americans have quickly settled into a new remote working routine and they've made some major changes to their wardrobe as a result. Remote workers are increasingly ditching their business casual attire for a uniform of sweats and other comfy duds, and they appear to be embracing something called the "Zoom shirt," too.

The New York Times recently coined the term that refers to a top you keep on hand to help you look presentable during a video meeting. Apparently, remote workers are approaching Zoom shirts in two main ways: They're keeping one handy on the back of their computer chair to throw on when an unexpected meeting pops up, or they're intentionally wearing it over something more casual (like sweatpants) for a day filled with meetings.

“Zoom shirts completely owe their popularity to COVID-19. In a matter of days, millions of workers went remote around the world. 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," Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management told TODAY Style.

Mother looking after son and working from home
American workers are reevaluating their go-to work wardrobe while working remotely.10'000 Hours / Getty Images stock

Zoom shirts are a rising quarantine style

In a recent survey of 1,002 Americans who are working from home, SHRM discovered that 17% are opting to wear an office-friendly top and casual pants daily. That number rises to 49% when employees are taking a video call. Only 6% of remote workers polled admitted to wearing business attire at home regularly and 60% reported wearing sweatpants daily.

"These workers don’t have to wake up as early, get all dressed up or spend time commuting. And if nobody is going to see you, or if you know they can only see you from one angle, it’s easy to see why Zoom shirts became a thing," Taylor said.

In a June 2020 survey of apparent customers, the NPD Group asked shoppers about their clothing habits during quarantine and 24% admitted to wearing activewear, sleepwear or loungewear for most of the day. Another 10% revealed that they get dressed for work at the start of the day before changing into comfy clothes later.

NPD Group apparel industry analyst Maria Rugolo told TODAY her Zoom shirt protocol consists of the following: a T-shirt for internal meetings, a button-down blouse for internal meetings with senior level managers and a business top and lipstick for a client meeting.

"Clothing that solves problems is where consumers’ heads were even prior to COVID-19. While quarantining at home during the pandemic, U.S. consumers continued to seek out comfort in their everyday wardrobe with nearly half (47%) stating that they wear the same clothes throughout most of the day," she said.

ShopStyle has also seen an increase in searches for Zoom-ready tops like “women’s blouses” (+200%), “black blouses” (+300%), “short sleeve blouses” (+133%) and “linen blouses” (+50%) over the past month, according to Alison Stiefel, ShopStyle general manager.

Smiling woman with laptop and headphones sitting on couch
Be honest: How many Zoom shirts do you own?Westend61 / Getty Images stock

How to choose the right Zoom shirt

If you don't already have a Zoom shirt or two in your wardrobe, there are a few details to look for when shopping:

  • Steer clear of busy patterns: "Avoid striped tops as the pattern can appear distorted on camera," Stiefel said.
  • Consider the neckline: "As the attention will mainly be on your face, pick a shirt with a neckline that you feel most comfortable in, whether it's square, crew or scoop neck," Kesha Linder, thredUP merchandiser, said.
  • Choose colors wisely: "Bright colors (white and neon) may appear overexposed on camera, while selecting a top that is too close to your skin color may give the appearance that your head is floating," Stiefel said.
  • Don't forget the accessories: "Accessories are an easy way to change up a look and boost your mood! Pairing your favorite cozy T-shirt with a fun necklace or headband can take your Zoom look to the next level," Linder said.

You can always pick up a few if you find a good sale, but don't feel pressured to invest in too many new tops at this time. Most employees probably aren't paying attention to their colleagues' wardrobe right now.

"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.

Are Zoom shirts here to stay?

Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, our work wardrobe needs were admittedly a bit more multidimensional, but now workers are looking to invest in versatile staple items they can wear over and over again to get their money's worth.

"The concept of a capsule wardrobe and shamelessly outfit repeating has been increasing in popularity for quite some time. With ‘outfit of the day’ culture no longer relevant during this new normal, the pandemic catalyzed people’s shift to simplicity in their lives and with their wardrobes," Linder said.

With no pressing reason to dress up while working from home, Zoom shirts are likely a trend that will have some lasting power.

"The motto, ‘business on the top, party on the bottom’ has never been more relevant," Linder 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."