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Why Gen Z workers are wearing ‘gross’ pajamas to the office in China: report

Every day is Casual Friday among China’s Generation CoZy.

That’s right, Chinese Gen Zers are upending traditional office attire standards by increasingly rocking their “gross” pajamas while on the job.

“I just want to wear whatever I want,” Cindy Luo, 30, an interior designer in Wuhan, Hubei province told the New York Times while describing this frumpy fashion statement. “I just don’t think it’s worth spending money to dress up for work, since I’m just sitting there.”

The workplace trend has spread through posts on the Chinese social media platform Douyin.
The workplace trend has spread through posts on the Chinese social media platform Douyin.

Luo said she frequently works in snug slumber wear, rarely even bothered to don matching tops and bottoms.

Luo is part of a growing contingent of young Chinese workers who prioritize comfort over sharp couture, a life-style choice they advertise proudly on social media.

There’s even a “gross outfits at work” thread blowing up on Xiaohongshu — China’s equivalent of Instagram. On it, deliberately unkempt zoomers post pics of themselves at work in sandals and socks, sweatpants, sleepwear and other outfits that make them look like they just rolled out of bed.

This pajama drama came to a head when a user, named Kendou S, posted a video of herself on Douyin, China’s sister site to TikTok.

In the clip, which boasts over 1.4 million shares, the anti-fashionista is seen sporting a brown, burlap-like sweater over plaid pajama pants with a quilted jacket, fluffy slippers and even a balaclava.

She claimed on camera that her boss repeatedly labeled her getups “gross” and said that they needed to better reflect the “image of the company.”

This countercultural trend is a response to the country’s alleged slowing growth and dwindling employment opportunities, the NY Times writes.
This countercultural trend is a response to the country’s alleged slowing growth and dwindling employment opportunities, the NY Times writes.

In general, business attire in China is fairly conservative with men traditionally donning collared shirts or jackets while women are expected to wear business suits or “dresses with a high neckline.”

Why are China’s Gen-Z employees being so sartorially subversive?

It’s an aesthetic representation of the nationwide “lying flat” movement, in which younger professionals are eschewing the breakneck rat race of previous generations in favor of a more easygoing, uncomplicated life.

This countercultural trend is a response to the country’s alleged slowing growth and dwindling employment opportunities, the NY Times writes.

Zoomers also want to prove that their choice of clothing doesn’t reflect their abilities as workers, proving they’re not sleeping on the job even though they might be dressed like it. “It’s the progress of the times,” declared Xiao Xueping, a psychologist in Beijing, regarding the new unofficial office uniform.

This isn’t the first time pajamas have been considered haute couture.

Maridav – stock.adobe.com
Maridav – stock.adobe.com

Wearing PJs became increasingly popular among multiple generations during the COVID-19 pandemic, when employees were relegated to working remotely.

In 2020, officials in the city of Suzhou sparked backlash after controversially naming and shaming citizens for sporting their sleepwear in the streets.

Chinese zoomers don’t have a monopoly on oddball office attire. In 2022, their US counterparts raised eyebrows after wearing sex, club-like outfits to work, one of many ways American Gen Z-ers have defied workplace dress standards of late.