is it okay to change out of your commute clothes at your office?

A reader writes:

I’m about three months into my job. With the summer heat (90+ degrees F and ~90% humidity), it’s been so hot that I finally decided to forgo wearing my work blouses on the way into work (I have a 15-minute walk) and just wear a loose t-shirt with nice slacks. I also wear sneakers on my commute and change both the t-shirt and sneakers at the office.

I haven’t received any negative comments or attention based on it, but I’m still feeling sheepish about it. Is this an acceptable thing? Should I be changing before I get to my office? For reference: the dress code at my workplace is business casual in the summertime and formal business all other months.

As long as you’re going straight to the bathroom or your office to change when you arrive and not hitting the kitchen first or getting sucked into conversations with someone in the hall, in most offices this should be fine. Especially the shoe part, which is common to do. The t-shirt is potentially a little sketchier in some offices, but it’s pretty reasonable to do unless you’re getting odd looks or the overall vibe that it’s Not Done in that culture.

If it’ll give you more peace of mind, you could always run it by someone who’s been there a while and who seems to have good judgment, and see what they say.

But really, the day that it’s not okay to do this with sneakers is the day that 80% of the women in D.C. will rise up in rebellion.

{ 191 comments… read them below }

  1. Meg*

    I’ve never considered doing that before … I like the idea but I’d be worried about it being frowned upon.

  2. urban adventurer*

    I ride my bike to work most days. So, I arrive in a t-shirt, shorts, and casual shoes…and usually sweaty.

    Initially I did feel a little odd about being seen in athletic clothes at work, especially in an older, more traditional office. But I deal with it by changing right away. I also find it helpful to arrive a little earlier, so I can looked pressed and professional by the time most of my co-workers arrive.

    1. urban adventurer*

      Also, if you keep doing it I bet some of your coworkers will start joining the trend–especially the ones that don’t spend their whole commute in an air-conditioned car.

    2. Mel*

      I started biking to work too and I wasn’t sure at first if it would be inappropriate to get to work sweaty, so I made sure to come in an hour early so I had time to get myself together. I have a folding bike that fits in the corner of my office and when the exec director came in the other day, he commented on how cool it was and he actually sounded pretty impressed that I ride 9 miles to get to work. So now I don’t mind being seen in my biking clothes before and after work. I just make sure the first stop I make is to my office to put down the bike then the bathroom to wipe off and change.

  3. IronMaiden*

    I can’t imagine anyone having an issue with this. Plenty of people walk, run or cycle to work and need to change (and possibly even shower) once there. If anything, it should be applauded. As long as you are arriving with time to dress and freshen up, it shouldn’t be a problem.

    1. Jessa*

      Just make sure you bring something to freshen up with, you don’t want to smell like you just biked in.

      But Alison is right, most major cities will have fights if nobody can bike in.

  4. Jamie*

    I don’t see anything wrong with it – but I don’t work in a formal environment.

    My concern wouldn’t be the clothes but the sweating. I’ve known people who bike to work and even though they would change clothes – they couldn’t shower and that was a noticeable issue. I can’t imagine wanting to put clean work clothes on a sweaty body – but that’s me.

    1. Cat*

      Though in this case, it sounds like the choices are changing into clean work clothes after sweating a bit or getting the actual clothes sweaty too. (If she lives 15 minutes walk away, the odds are high that it’s not a situation where driving is feasible regardless of the weather.)

    2. AnonAdmin*

      +1 This is a reason I don’t work out at lunch. I’m female and I definitely don’t “glow” when I exercise- I sweat. A lot. I don’t want to return to my desk all sweaty and smelly, and a shower at the office entails hair and likely makeup for me. And it has been an issue with past coworkers; they either smelled of B.O. all day or spritzed on perfume in an effort to cover it (thus gagging me).

      1. twentymilehike*

        OMG I SO AGREE WITH YOU! I have never understood “lunch time” fitness classes. First, I don’t have that much time to change, workout, eat, change again. And then I’d be super gross and sweaty anyhow. And I’ve worked with really sweaty people, and yes, as much as they want to deny it, they don’t smell pretty.

        1. The IT Manager*

          Yes. I don’t consider myself a primper, but it would take me about 5-10 min to change before a workout and 30 minutes to showered, dry my hair and get dressed after.

          1. Jessa*

            They do have those wipes you can use (they make them for bedridden or wheelchair bound people to wash with) waterless, and you just clean up with them if you need to. Very quick. Come in easy to carry packages, inexpensive can be had from any pharmacy.

        2. Cat H*

          Agree also!

          A female colleague at my last place would often do this. We get an hour for lunch. About 25 minutes before she started lunch, she’d get changed. Then sit at her desk in work out clothes. Then she’d leave 5 mins early, get back 5 mins late and then get her food from the kitchen and eat at her desk – in her workout clothes! She wasn’t even working when she would eat at her desk. She was usually catching up with something on Netflix.
          Sometimes, she would wait as long as an hour before having a shower that took up another 10 minutes. TBH, I never noticed any pungent smells but… ewww! Just stewing in her own sweat!
          All in all, it was probably about an hour and 45 minutes that she took for “lunch” and this was every Monday and Friday (and no – she didn’t ever make the time up).

      2. Dorothy Lawyer*

        Agreed! And I don’t want to have to do my hair and makeup twice in one day.

    3. FSP*

      Completely agree. The only time I’ve done this was when I did an AM bootcamp and my office has a locker room with showers. It was still gross throwing on clothes so quickly after showering but at least I was able to shower.

    4. Annie*

      I have friends who swear by a baby-wipe touch up in the restroom after a sweaty walk or bike to work. I usually get by without sweating enough that I haven’t gone that far, but it works for some people.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Let’s just clarify that baby wipes are A-OK for freshening up after a walk or bike to work. NOT okay for the gal squeezing in a 6 mile tempo run over lunch in the Midwest in July. That requires a full shower.

        1. Dana*

          Ha! My grandmother called it this, but I didn’t know it was a known acronym. I wonder if your referencing the same words as she was. I’d type it out but it would inappropriate here.

          1. Jessa*

            Yes but the wipes that are designed for bathing are okay for the pta shower. You can get them at your pharmacy. They’re inexpensive.

        2. Kou*

          I always heard this as a PPA shower, *also* from my grandmother. Our grandmas were some dirty ladies.

        3. tcookson*

          Had to look this up on Urban Dictionary . . . my grandma had something equally dirty that she called it, don’t remember exactly what it was, referring to the same parts

    5. ChristineSW*

      YES!!! Oh how I hate getting all sweaty in my nice interview suit or other work-appropriate attire because I have to hoof it from the bus stop to my destination! Even if I were to wear a plain t-shirt during the commute, I sweat like crazy if I’m going fast to make it at a certain time. I’ve never figured out a graceful way of cooling off and changing, all while making myself look neat and presentable.

    6. Natalie*

      There are a few factors at play here that can make bike-commuting less sweaty than you might think:

      – length/difficulty of commute
      – climate
      – clothing choice, both on and off the bike

      I have a fairly short commute, easy commute – about 2 miles, and downhill or flat on the way in. So I’m only in the saddle for about 15 minutes and it’s an easy 15 minutes.

      Climate wise, I need to be here by 8, so I’m biking around 7:30-7:45 when it’s still cool and the buildings provide a lot of shade. There have been a few memorable days when it was already in the 90s by 7:30, but those were freakish days and frankly, everyone smelled bad.

      With clothing, if possible you want proper cycling clothes, especially a jersey, for the ride. Like most sports clothes they’re made to keep you from sweating excessively, and bonus, there’s a flap to cover your lower back while biking. And during the workday, natural fibers are preferable to synthetics.

      1. bob*

        And a pro tip to keep your exercise (in my case cycling) clothes from stinking horribly is to air them out and let them dry instead of shoving them in a gym bag for the day. Heck I only have to wash my cycling gear every month or 2! No really and they don’t stink.

    7. Kelly O*

      They do make these little deodorizer ball things you can toss in a gym bag that help with the odor. I’ve used them with success in the past.

  5. Sourire*

    As someone from the snowy Northeast, in the wintertime, pretty much everyone has to change out of winter boots, go through a ritual of putting away coat, scarf, gloves, etc and that is seen as totally normal. Yet, for some reason even though what OP is suggesting is essentially the same thing, it seems different? Probably just because it’s not as common. I certainly wouldn’t be bothered by a coworker doing it though.

    1. KayDay*

      You know, I never thought of it like that, which is stupid of me since I come from a snowy area. But you are totally right!

      1. Chinook*

        That is because, when you are in a snowy climate, it is perfectly normal to find 6 different pairs of shoes under a woman’s desk in winter.

        1. Manda*

          Thanks! I’ve been wondering about this. I would rather take a bus than drive so dress shoes outside in the winter is not an option. I definitely do not want to carry an extra bag everyday.

  6. Anonymous*

    I would just make sure that you are ready and at your desk at the time you’re supposed to be. At my last job there was someone who would get to work “on time” but then do an elaborate makeup routine, which mean that she wasn’t really ready to actually work on time.

    1. Jamie*

      I had one of those, but with breakfast. At work on time, but the first 40 minutes was preparing and eating a leisurely breakfast and then using the bathroom. Might as well not have even been there for the first almost hour of work.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Okay, but if you have flex time, you don’t really know when they’re officially starting their clock.

        I get to work around 7:40 and eat breakfast and read my email, but I don’t consider myself on the clock till 8:00. I wouldn’t call my breakfast leisurely, but the process of going to my desk getting oatmeal, going to the breakroom, cooking it, back to my desk, eating it, cleaning the bowl. . .Gahhh. That’s why I usually do protein shakes instead.

        1. Cat*

          I do that too; I’m not really hungry until I’ve been up for a while, so it’s easier to get to work and then have breakfast. I certainly put in a full day’s work or more though.

        2. Jamie*

          This person didn’t have flex time – and productivity was a serious issue. When you have productivity issues and are already leaving early a couple of days a week you might want to spread the cream cheese on the bagel a little faster. :)

          If it was an employee with flex time wouldn’t have even been noticed.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Yeah, in that case it would be just like any other productivity issue, such as talking on the phone with your friends and family for 2 hours a day, like some people I have sat by in the past. : )

            1. Jamie*

              Exactly – it wasn’t breakfast (although the chewing – it was loud) it was the work issues it caused. It wouldn’t matter if it was the phone, or clipping nails, or whatever…it’s the productivity.

          2. twentymilehike*

            Yep .. we had a receptionist once that was routinely 15 minutes late, then spent the next half hour doing her make up in the bathroom. Where she couldn’t hear the phone ring.

            Our boss bought her an alarm clock for Christmas.

      2. SCW*

        I once had someone like that–they would come in on time, make a fruit smoothie and wander around drinking it for the first hour. It was even worse because we had a no food around the really expensive new machine rule and so she either broke the rule or didn’t work, mostly both.

      3. tcookson*

        I worked for a manager when I was younger with a crew who, like me, were mostly late teens to mid-twenties. I appreciate now that she taught us “how to work” by just explicitly telling us what workplace expectations any of us were violating and holding us to a higher standard. The breakfast thing, for example, came up for all of us, and she just made a group announcement that we should eat breakfast at home, explaining that the time we spent making breakfast and eating it was time out of every day that added up to a lot of work not being done while on the clock.

    2. anon*

      Did we work at the same place? At my last job, I had a co-worker like this. Would sit at her desk in plain view of everyone else (we had cubicles) and proceed to spend the next 15-20 minutes meticulously applying her makeup.

      1. Chinook*

        How does one take 15-20 minutes to apply makeup (this is a serious question, not snark)? I do the whole shebang (moisturizer, foundation, eyes, lips, blush) and even if the cat decided that was the time to come and knock a brush on the floor, Iw oudl be done in under 10.

        1. Jamie*

          Me too – including the cat. I don’t know it could take so long – 10 max for me and that’s if I have to tweak my eyebrows.

        2. anon*

          She took her sweet, sweet time. I was actually so fascinated that I watched for about 2 minutes straight and each motion she made was so, so, SO meticulous and sloooowwwww. I don’t know if it’s because doing makeup required that much concentration or if she was purposely dragging out the time.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I have a weird love of watching people put makeup on. It would have killed my productivity because I would have sat there and watched, mesmerized.

            1. fposte*

              Watching any focused activity like that will mesmerize me. The popularity of this kind of thing in ASMR videos suggests that it’s not hugely uncommon, either.

                1. fposte*

                  I’m not generally moved by the roleplay ones, but ones where people are explaining in gentle technical detail how they do something I have no strong interest in are my favorite travel relaxant.

                2. Jo*

                  Well you just blew my mind. I didn’t know this was a known thing. I get it from watching people draw instructions/directions in front of me. Good to know I’m not the only weird one.

                3. Anony1234*

                  Quite a few people, like myself, notice it as kids. Watching someone be meticulous in a task (usually taking their time and concentrating) and hairplaying are my triggers (especially if someone is braiding my own hair).

                  I had read some articles where it is written that goosebumps aren’t a “symptom” of it, but I do get them and have that feeling from the back of my head through the limbs.

                  Try the youtube channels “ASMR Massage” and “Descriptive Sounds” (same person). She is holding an ASMR event in Oklahoma City next year (but I’m not going and paying for that).

                  ASMR = Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.

                4. Lori*

                  Wow, I feel the same way – but especially with watching drawing – but I thought it was mirror neurons!

                5. Noah*

                  Never knew this had a name. I’m a guy, but I find the makeup videos on Youtube so relaxing. Now I’ve spent the last hour watching ASMR videos. Have to say it doesn’t quite work the same, but some of them are still rather relaxing. I just don’t quite get the same head tingly, super relaxed feeling. Glad to see that I may be a freak, but at least I have some company.

                  The things I learn on this blog will never cease to amaze me.

            2. Manda*

              *hides* I’m not sure why – maybe I’m just self-conscious – but I really don’t like it if anyone sees me putting on makeup. I danced when I was younger and it didn’t bother me in the dressing room, but I avoid putting on makeup in public washrooms. I occasionally did it at school when I was running late and would have otherwise missed the bus, but I made sure to go to a low-traffic washroom.

        3. Kelly O*

          *raises hand sheepishly*

          Sometimes it takes me that long, however I sort of console myself by reminding myself that I’m basically putting on my makeup while trying to watch the news and entertain a small child who constantly wants to put on whatever Mommy is putting on.

          If left to my own devices, I’m much faster. That just never happens.

          1. Chinook*

            Kelly O, everyone should know that adding a child to the mix guarantees everything takes 2 to 3 times longer, so you have nothing to be sheepish about (unless, of course, said child is with you at your desk at work while you are putting on the makeup).

            1. Jamie*

              Totally – and I give you bonus points for being able to finish at all. When my kids were small I was lucky to be able to go to the bathroom and brush my teeth…makeup would have been a huge accomplishment.

        4. Kou*

          If you include moisturizer it’s longer for me– I can do my daily makeup in 5-10 mins but I wait 10 mins after washing my face and using skin care.

        5. Lindsay J*

          I take that long, but I also have an elaborate routine.

          Under eye brightener/general highlighter
          Concealer if needed
          Blush (and bronzer if I decide I want to contour)
          3 colors eyeshadow (corner, main, crease)
          Lipstick or gloss

          1. cherry*

            If you have bad skin (adult acne) and super dark eye circles like me, it can take ten minutes just to put on foundation and concealer.

          2. bob*

            I’ll go out on a limb and guess you really don’t need all the stuff you’re putting on.

            1. VintageLydia*


              I have the same routine, and as a SAHM I don’t “need” to either, but I enjoy doing it and I like the way I look afterward. Make up, especially for people who invest in it (expensive brushes/higher end brands) as often just as much for the individual as it is for everyone else.

            2. Forrest*

              I’ll go out on a limb and say an anonymous internet commenter probably doesn’t know someone’s make up needs better than them.

        6. FD*

          I think it’s a practice thing. When I kit up fully (eyeshadow, lipstick, and blush), it tends to take me around 15 because I don’t do it very often.

        7. Melissa*

          I have definitely taken 20 minutes to apply makeup before. If you are going slow an taking your sweet time, or if you’re just starting out, it can take a while. When I was first learning it would take me 20 minutes to get it all on, but now I can do it in 10.

      2. Sourire*

        I have a coworker who does this too, and for the life of me, I can’t figure it out. If you have already bothered to come into work and let people see you without makeup in the first place, why is putting the full face on afterward so important? I get when it’s an anomaly, like you slept through the alarm that day, but the every day thing baffles me. Then again, perhaps my perspective is skewed, as I will not (bar an emergency hospital trip) leave the house without makeup. Ah, the joys of being pale… If you don’t put a little color on, you have to spend all day explaining that no, you are not sick, tired, etc

        1. 22dncr*

          Gods – this Sourire! When I was in High School the fashion was long, long hair and no make-up. Every time the School Nurse passed me in the Hall she’d ask: “Honey, do you feel OK? Do you need to go home?” Of course, all my friends were with me and I wanted the ground to just swallow me!

        2. Liz T*

          I usually do my make-up on the subway, and it takes 2 local stops or 1 express. I found out on Facebook, though, that an acquaintance of mine HATES when people do this, because it squicks her out to see people apply eyeliner.

          1. Melissa*

            Do you live near the beginning of the line? I couldn’t do it standing and riding the subway in the morning I wasn’t always guaranteed a seat.

        3. Kou*

          I’m super pale so I got thick plastic framed glasses that perfectly cover my big sad tired eyes. I don’t have to wear makeup as long as I’m wearing my glasses and some powder to control oil.

          1. Manda*

            That is one reason I do not want contacts. Glasses hide the dark circles under my eyes. I just look tired all the time if I’m not wearing glasses.

            1. Kou*

              Yep! It’s the best shortcut to looking awake, I swear. I used to layer so much stuff around my eyes.

            2. tcookson*

              That’s funny . . . I thought I was the only one relying on glasses in place of eye makeup. My glasses are dark wire-rimmed (not the really thin kind, but not heavy either) and rectangular; they tilt up a little at the outside corners, the same as I would do my eyeliner if was wearing any. So now I just wear a light dusting of mineral powder foundation and some lipstick.

    3. SevenSixOne*

      GROAN. There’s a part of me that grumbles about how this is one reason women aren’t taken seriously in professional settings, since the people who do elaborate public displays or grooming are almost exclusively female. Spend as much (or as little!) time on your grooming as you want, do it at work if you want… just do it privately and NOT WHILE YOU SHOULD BE WORKING!

        1. SevenSixOne*

          Barf, nail-clipping guy. I don’t judge anyone for quickly, discreetly clipping one nail, but save the full manicure for after-hours, dude.

          1. Anonymous*

            We used to have Toenail Clipping guy. Yes, he would take off his shoes and socks and clip his toenails at work. YUCK!

      1. Maggie*

        I used to work in an office where a guy would get up and apply deodorant in front of the staff – it was a roll-on too.

  7. Time to Get Real*

    As always, my platform is that when a stuffy dress code trumps a human’s rights to basic comfort that’s a problem. If you look at someone and make such a quick judgment of why they are wearing a t-shirt vs a dress shirt on a 90+ degree day, shame on you. Lighten up, wear a t-shirt yourself and maybe you’ll lighten up a little bit. There is a reason I rarely trust a man in a suit unless he’s Justin Timberlake.

    1. Kelly O*

      I trust Jon Hamm in a suit. (Not Don Draper mind you, but Jon Hamm.)

      I trust Jon Stewart in a suit.

      I do not trust That Weasel Pete Campbell or Whatever the Poor Guy Who Plays Him is Named. Vince Something or other…

    2. fposte*

      What about people who are more comfortable in a suit, though? Not everybody is comfortable in the same clothes.

      1. Time to Get Real*

        Barney may rock the suit, but really would you trust the guy picking you up in a bar?

        SUIT UP!

  8. JoAnna*

    We have a business casual dress code and a gym next door (the company provides gym memberships as part of our benefits). My manager always wears his gym clothes to work (he gets here really early, before anyone else is in, about 5am), works for a few hours, goes to the gym, and then changes into his work clothes at the gym and comes back. Sometimes when I get in (around 7am) he hasn’t made it to the gym yet and is still in gym clothes. A lot of people around here do the same as he does and no one bats an eye.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Hmmm. I sometimes wear spandex shorts & tank top to the gym. Would that fly? I wouldn’t be brave enough to do it, but I’m curious how your company would handle the one person who wants to show off their mad hotness to the whole office.

      1. JMegan*

        When I do that, I just bring a sweater to throw over top while I’m walking around in the office. Everybody gets the “I’m on my way to/from” the gym thing, but I feel more comfortable if I’m covered up at least a little bit while I’m getting back to the washroom to change.

      2. Kou*

        Flies where I work. Tons of people bike to work or workout during lunch, so there are wee spandex shorts everywhere.

  9. KellyK*

    Sounds totally reasonable to me. In addition to what other people have mentioned, I would
    -Make sure your commuting clothes are still basically presentable (no rips, stains, or holes, nothing super-revealing).
    -Apply deodorant before changing and possibly use wet wipes (or just stand in the bathroom stall/changing area for a minute and air out if it’s air conditioned) if you get really sweaty.
    -Make sure to use some form of deodorizer in your walking shoes every now and again, so they aren’t stinking up your work environment.

    1. some1*

      “-Make sure to use some form of deodorizer in your walking shoes every now and again, so they aren’t stinking up your work environment.”

      Or keep them in a bag or backpack that zips up.

  10. AnotherAlison*

    FWIW, I do the opposite and change after work into shorts (gasp!) and a t-shirt. I’m often headed to a baseball game that will be in 90 degree heat & humidity. I feel weird about changing in my floor’s bathroom or in my office (although I have done it) because there’s still a lot of bumping-into-people opportunity before I exit the building. Changing in the first floor bathroom seems completely reasonable, though. People also seem more laid back about this in the summer.

    1. Jamie*

      At least you to in the bathroom. I knew someone once who changed in his office…with a window. So when my nose got all out of joint because I didn’t want to see what I saw when I happened to walk past his office he sent out an email to let us know we shouldn’t walk past his office at a certain time because he was changing.

      To which my reply was a Visio map to the men’s room – conveniently located just down the hall.

      Seriously – I don’t ever want to see a co-worker in their underpants ever again.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        ‘Seriously – I don’t ever want to see a co-worker in their underpants ever again.” LOL.

        Which brings up an interesting point about going to the same gym (and locker room) as the whole office. It’s fine to see relative strangers or friends getting ready, but it feels awkward to bump into your coworker in her bra.

        1. Jamie*

          I would imagine, but it would certainly be understandable in that context. I mean, more than just walking to the copy machine and all of a sudden now you know he’s a boxer brief kind of guy.

          It is weird though, how in situations where nudity (or near nudity) is no big deal the presence of someone you know and with whom you have a non-naked relationship makes everything weird.

          I did a summer abroad in high school and some of us girls would have been totally fine trying out the whole bathing suit optional aspect of a french beach …if only strangers saw us and not the guys and our teachers who were on the trip as well. It’s something about having a non-clothing optional relationship that makes me want to keep it that way.

          1. Chinook*

            I never had that issue with the clother/none clothed relationship but, then again, my first professional job was in Japan where my fellow Canadian coworker, during my first week, took me to my first public bath so that I could get over the weirdness of public nudity without our coworkers around. And, after I almost flashed an entire country because, hey, who would think they were filming a morning show at a public bathhouse?, seeing a coworker in her bra really doesn’t faze me anymore.

            1. Jamie*

              Wow. I have never admired someone’s courage more.

              I like to think I would do anything I had to in order to support my family…but naked in front of co-workers? The kids can fend for themselves and I really don’t need food or shelter all that badly.

              1. Lora*

                This is a thing in some countries though. I’m looking at overseas contract jobs, and one of the things I found out about Russia was that going to the banya with your boss & colleagues is a sort of bonding ritual (if you’re the same gender).

                I sorta decided I could suck it up and deal when I did my HAZWOPER training. I mean, part of the deal when you’re working with hazardous stuff is that if it gets on you, you strip and stand under the safety showers for a loooong time. Thankfully I have not had to, knock on wood.

              2. Chinook*

                That’s not bad. One of my adult students basically took my mother under her wing while I was working and, without telling my mother the plan, took her to a local outdoor public bath (it is a tourist attraction). Luckily, my mother went with the flow but both of us couldn’t beleive that, within 24 hours of arriving in a strange company, she was taken by a stranger (and stranger’s husband who went on the men’s side) and told to strip and come have a soak. There became good friends after that.

        2. Dana*

          I work out over lunch and see plenty of co-workers in the locker room. I always take a shower so often times I’m completely unclothed. At first it gave me pause, but now I don’t give it a second thought. In the locker room setting ‘no staring’ and ‘no eye contact’ is par for the course anyway, but that is especially true in relation to those you work with. I’m pretty sure they’d rather suffer through slight discomfort in the locker room than suffer the stench if we were all prudish. :)

  11. AdAgencyChick*

    Man, I feel so lucky that I can wear a T-shirt or a sleeveless dress to work in this weather. This weather is so gross that if I worked in a more formal environment, I can’t see how I would be the least bit upset with employees who found a way to be more comfortable on their commute!

    (Though wearing sneakers with a dressy outfit is a personal pet peeve of mine — soft ballet flats are just as comfortable, and look so much nicer!)

    1. Meg*

      I’d like to respectfully disagree. IMO sneakers are much more comfortable to walk in (especially outside), and offer more support for joints/arches/etc. I don’t mind wearing ballet flats in the office, since most of my work is at a desk, but it’s a 15 minute walk from my apartment to the subway, and another 10 from the subway to work, and I’ve found that sneakers are much easier on my knees.

      During the winter I found a pair of dressy knee-high boots that had a thick sole that were perfect for walking in. I didn’t even need to bring snow-boots with me to work. IT WAS AMAZING.

      1. Jamie*

        I love ballet flats, but I have to agree. Any significant amount of walking and I will feel it if I’m not in sneakers (or gym shoes for us old school midwesterners.)

        1. Meg*

          Apparently the name you have for those shoes (sneaker/gym shoes/tennis shoes) is dependent on the region you grew up in. My mother is from the south/midwest (she moved around a lot), and calls them tennis shoes. This never fails to baffle me.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Yep, tennis shoes in flyover country. My husband was teased for using “sneakers” when he moved to this region from NY. (Although at my house, everyone has so damn many shoes, we tend to call them out by their purpose or brand – basketball shoes, running shoes, DCs, Nikes, etc.)

            1. flora_fairford*

              I’m from the deep south, and “tennis shoes” was the only phrase I’d ever heard until I moved north. “Sneakers” still sounds funny to me, ten years later.

            2. tcookson*

              Yep, I’m from the south, and I hardly ever hear anyone call them anything but “tennis shoes”, and like Julie says, it really does sound more like we’re saying “tennashoes” . . . it just all runs together . . .

          2. some1*

            I’m in the midwest and everyone I know calls them tennis shoes, even people who’ve never played tennis in their lives.

            1. Felicia*

              No Canada on that map, but everyone in this particular part of Canada calls them running shoes, which I didn’t see on the list. Except my grandmother and a couple other people over 70 I know that say tennis shoes.

              1. Marie*

                i’m in Quebec and we use running shoes, except if some kind of specific running shoe (tennis, walking, hiking what not)

          3. FD*

            I’m from Minnesota, and most people in my town use sneakers and tennis shoes interchangeably.

            I think there’s a vague convention around here that ‘sneakers’ more properly refers to exercise shoes (e.g. running shoes), whereas ‘tennis shoes’ more properly refer to light-soled shoes with canvas tops.

            1. Rana*

              Yeah, sneakers or running shoes are the padded things runners and people at the gym wear; “tennies” are things like Keds and Converse.

              1. Felicia*

                For things like Keds or Converse, we just say Keds or Converse:) I like learning about regional expressions…my parents grew up in a different region than I did so some of their regionalisms are different than the ones my sisters and I use.

          4. Windchime*

            From Washington state here, and they are tennis shoes here. Even though they are pretty different from the shoes that one would actually wear to play tennis. “Sneakers” sounds like something you’d wear if you wanted to sneak up on someone.

          5. Melissa*

            Tennis shoes in the South; sneakers in the Northeast. I say sneakers because my parents are Northeasterners and I was born there and lived there for the first part of my life, but I grew up mostly in the South, and everyone around me says tennis shoes. My sister – who was only 8 when we moved down there – switches.

    2. Del*

      Ballet flats might be fine for you, but for a lot of people, they are not a good option.

    3. COT*

      Yep, I also need the support of “real” shoes if I’m walking any significant distance. Ballet flats also make my feet clammy and sweaty, even with little hidden socks. I can wear them at work on occasion but wouldn’t be able to walk far in them.

      But yes, for those who find them comfortable, they’re a great commuting option. They even make those ones that fold up to fit in a purse!

      1. TL*

        I have those! And mine are made of some kind of plastic, so they make cute beach/water shoes as well!

    4. some1*

      “(Though wearing sneakers with a dressy outfit is a personal pet peeve of mine — soft ballet flats are just as comfortable, and look so much nicer!)”

      Some people have medical reasons for needing to wear tennis shoes. My mom and can’t wear ballet flats if she wants to walk more than a step.

    5. Rana*

      I can’t stand ballet flats. I have wide feet with tender heels, and those things are bad news on my feet. Either they pinch my toes and dig into my heels (and give me blisters in both places in the process) or they fly off my feet when I walk. And if I try to wear them with socks, the socks bunch down inside. I don’t mind that they’re flat and offer little support – I’ve hiked and run in minimalist shoes plenty of times – but the pain and nuisance of them isn’t worth it.

    6. EE*

      I have yet to try on a pair of ballet flats that don’t painfully rip into my Achilles tendon. For a 15-min walk, I’d rather 4″ stilettos than ballet flats. Ideally of course: neither.

      1. Jessa*

        Wear ballet flats all the time (cannot wear heels at ALL.) However, go to the shoemaker (or if you buy at a decent shoe store they may still be able to do this for you.) They have a little cotton wedge pad they can put under the lining in the heel of the shoe that raises the back of your foot so that the top edge of the shoe does not hit right at the wrong part of your ankle. It raises the back of your foot about 1/4 to 1/2 inch depending on how big a wedge they put. Good shoe stores do it gratis. Cheap ones charge about 2 – 3 bucks a pair. Shoemaker probably 6 bucks most of that in labour, will do whilst you wait.

        1. Rana*

          Good to know about, though it wouldn’t fix them for me. Mostly I just avoid shoes with backs, unless they’re things like sneakers or boots.

    7. Melissa*

      Sneakers are much more comfortable, especially if you have flat feet, high arches, or plantar fasciitis.

      Plus, you can get some sleek black sneakers that are comfortable and functional. They don’t have to be those huge bulky neon running shoes, lol.

  12. Lexy*

    Another thought… if you work in a large office building in a big city they may have changing facilities. I’ve worked in my building for a year and just found out there’s a secure locker room with showers in the basement. It’s $30 a quarter to get access and a locker (includes bike lock up) it might be worth asking your facilities person/office manager/whoever would be in charge of that stuff.

  13. ChristineSW*

    Silly question: How do people bring their change of clothing to work? I honestly cannot imagine arriving with a gym bag. lol. I just got a new gym bag a couple of months ago and black and bright purple! Totally kicking myself for not going with an all-black bag, or at least one with more subtle colors *facepalm*

    1. ChristineSW*

      I just got a new gym bag a couple of months ago and black and bright purple!

      Dangit….that should read “…and it’s black and bright purple…”

    2. Jamie*

      Why not? The people who do it here have gym bags – just toss them under their desks. Gym bags or backpacks is what I see most often.

      I’ve a very cute pinks Addias mini gym bag to keep a spare set of professional shoes in case I have a meeting and feel more comfortable changing out of the Vans.

      I can’t see why this wouldn’t be okay even in a more formal environment – you stow the bag when you get to work anyway.

      1. KellyK*

        Yeah, I agree. I see a couple people who *don’t* walk or bike to work using backpacks. If you have a really formal office, maybe it should be a black bag, but I feel like any place *that* formal is going to have issues with you being in shorts for 2 minutes at the beginning of the day too. (I’m thinking bank, law office, etc.)

      2. Manda*

        Why not? The people who do it here have gym bags – just toss them under their desks. Gym bags or backpacks is what I see most often.

        I think the issue for some people is carrying a gym bag to work. It’s one thing if you drive to work, but if you take public transit, it can be a PITA to lug an extra bag around with you. I took a gym bag with me to school once in a while and then stopped on the way home and that’s not fun when you also have a purse and a backpack on a crowded bus. It was better to go home and then go to the gym later.

        1. ChristineSW*

          That was one of my quandaries. It’s not easy carrying around larger bags on crowded busses/trains or stations.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I have a pair of shorts and flip flops under my desk right now in a Lego store Star Wars plastic bag. Your gym bag is probably 10x more professional than that.

      1. the gold digger*

        I bring gym clothes to work every day and carry them in a small black gym bag. I wear flats to walk to the bus stop and keep nice shoes at work. I also keep a pair of tennies at work. All that reduces the bulk of what goes into the gym bag.

        (I also have peanut butter cheese crackers, almonds, little Nutellas, and a variety of OTC and RX painkillers at my desk.)

        1. Jamie*

          Hello Kitty makes a really tasteful canvas beach bag which is so cute and kitty is so subtle that people see it forever before noticing she’s hiding in the leaves and hawaiian flowers.

          Makes an excellent carry all for purse junk as well as snacks and water in case I can’t find time for lunch.

          I believe in being totally prepared for the end of the world at all times. And if what we need to rebuild society is Nivea lip balm, L’Oreal mascara, graham crackers, granola bars and a couple bottles of Naleczowianka water I’ve got it covered!

          Seriously, best flavored water EVER! My new favorite thing.

          1. the gold digger*

            If I had had to buy a bag, I would definitely have looked for a cute one, but this black one happened to be in the attic. It was the more fiscally prudent decision but not as fun.

    4. Jane Doe*

      I just wear a backpack to work. It’s easier to put my shoes, lunch, etc. in a backpack than try to stuff them in a purse and it distributes weight much better. It’s not like they have to see it for more than 20 seconds max every day.

    5. Ann O'Nemity*

      I bring my gym bag to work; it has a lovely (and loud) blue Hawaiian print.

      I also shamelessly leave work in my yoga clothes because it’s easier to change in my private office than at the crowded yoga studio. Although we have a professional dress code, my work is also very encouraging of fitness activities and it’s fairly common for folks to come/go in activewear.

    6. KayDay*

      I don’t actually own a “gym bag” so I usually use my re-usable grocery bags–especially the kind that fold up into a little ball.

      1. fposte*

        Do you have the Flip & Tumble bags too? I love those! It’s like shopping with toys!

    7. some1*

      I bring a backpack to work every day to hold my dress shoes (I walk everyday) and my lunch, and sometimes my cell phone charger or something else I might need. I just stash it under my desk. No one thinks anything of it – most of the women here either carry a hold-all as a purse or a purse and another larger bag.

  14. Colorado*

    Just don’t arrive wearing white bike shorts when sweaty. Yes, see through, white bike shorts on a man at 7:30 am is not appetizing! Seriously.

      1. KellyK*

        Hehe, yeah, but even if you want to see it in *general,* you don’t want to see it at work!

  15. L*

    Interesting because I would have never thought twice about this since in my area we have Ride Your Bike to Work Day and people routinely walk/jog on lunch breaks but then here business casual also can mean jeans and bowling shirts with visible piercings and tattoos so the advice about double checking with someone to verify the cultural norms is good advice of course.

    In my personal opinion, if someone isn’t on the clock yet they can wear what they want and its much better to not be the smelly rumpled co-worker all day long than be seen in a T-shirt for a second before you’ve even clocked in.

  16. Frieda*

    Fun story: during a heat wave here in NYC in July of last year (temps over 100 F, power grid brown outs, general misery), I was working late one evening, until around 8pm. The office was almost empty. In addition to the heat, I was heading right from the office to see a friend’s band play in an even hotter, sweaty club. So on my way out I stopped in the bathroom and changed from my business casual outfit into my hot-weather, going-to-a-sweaty-club, really-really-really casual outfit; think cutoff shorts, spaghetti-strap tank top, flip-flops. I didn’t think I would even see anyone, since it was 8pm and there is literally 50 ft between the bathroom and the elevator. One coworker was leaving at the same time, but this was not a big deal because she is a peer and we have a good friendship.
    However, as I walked into the elevator I hear “Hold the door!” from over my shoulder–and then the CEO of all people walks into the elevator with us! I can’t describe how mortified I was. And this is a CEO who is always impeccably dressed in a perfectly tailored suit with pocket square every day. Luckily I got off before him (to drop off a package in our mailroom) but my friend later reported that after I left the elevator the CEO said something to the effect of, “well I guess it IS really hot today.”

  17. Tiff*

    We have showers in our building, and there’s a pretty big group who go out daily to run, walk or exercise at lunch time. Which is great, til the one guy in the bunch shows up at the office with his short-short running shorts and tank top completely drenched. Sweat just flying off of him in every direction, dripping from his lashes, wet everything. Not to mention a post-workout heat aura that makes anyone standing within a foot of him also start to sweat. He’s a great guy though so I just avoid him til after his shower.

    1. COT*

      Wow! If you’re working out during work with coworkers, wear some clothing with more coverage!

  18. Chinook*

    It might be worth checking in to see if the building you’re in has a change room with showers. They are often there for the convinience fo those who bike to work or run at lunch.

  19. Contessa*

    I wear sneakers to work and change into heels when I get there (business casual dress code if you’re not going to court that day, but I believe attorneys should look like attorneys, so I wear a suit every day on principle), but sometimes in the winter I forget to change because my feet are so warm in the sneakers. It’s kind of embarrassing to realize it halfway through the day . . .

  20. COT*

    I sometimes feel a little weird walking in dressed really casually if I biked to work or whatnot. In addition to the advice everyone else has given, I just try to remember that my coworkers will usually see me throughout the day, not just when I first walk in. They get to know my style well enough to know that I can and do dress professionally during the workday–and therefore seeing me in my pre-work outfit won’t destroy their impression of me.

    I also find it helps to arrive earlier than most folks when I need to clean up or change, to find the shortest route from an entrance to a restroom, and (if I’m biking) carry my helmet conspicuously to make it obvious why I’m dressed the way I am.

    If I’m coming from a casual event by car, I try to partially clean up before I go inside, like changing into my dressier pants/skirt (if the coast is clear) or doing my makeup so I walk in looking a little closer to appropriate.

    Also, they make some good-looking fitness apparel (especially for “urban” biking) these days. High-performance fabrics are incorporated into all kinds of clothing. Even if those items aren’t formal enough for your workplace, they might help you feel a little less underdressed when you walk in the door. For instance, a wicking t-shirt in a solid color could blend in a little better (and keep you more comfortable) than the t-shirt you got at a 5k two years ago.

  21. Katie the Fed*

    At the Pentagon, it’s not uncommon to see women walking around with sneakers during the day. There are 17 miles of hallways in that building – pumps with heels just ain’t gonna cut it for everyone.

    1. Judy*

      One of my roommates from college posted on Facebook last fall, tagging a few of her navy friends something like “Remember 20 years ago when we were 22 year old ensigns and laughed at the older women walking through the Pentagon with suits and sneakers? That was me this week!”

  22. bearcat*

    I used to ride my bike to work in a t-shirt and padded bike shorts (I picked the n0n-form-fitting variety). Nobody ever said anything negative, but one of the strangest conversations I’ve ever had with a co-worker was when she thought I was wearing a diaper because my butt was padded.

    1. Jamie*

      Interesting. If I thought my co-worker was wearing a diaper I certainly wouldn’t bring it up in conversation.

  23. Chocolate Teapot*

    I have just taken delivery of a new pair of summer sandals and have been doing the alternate-in-the-office-to-break-them-in routine.

    In winter time it’s my furry Yeti boots with additional snow spikes, which were worth their weight in gold over the past winter where the snow melted then refroze and compacted into ice.

  24. Dave*

    Regarding wearing sneakers into the office than changing into dress shoes:

    I understand all the arguments for it, and they all seem perfectly logical, and I’m a big proponent of an active lifestyle and including as much movement into one’s day as possible, and I’d have a hard time explaining to someone why I think they should have to walk a long distance to work in uncomfortable shoes…

    I still think showing up to work in a suit with sneakers looks ridiculous and would never do it.

    1. Sydney Bristow*

      The easiest solution for me is to change my shoes before entering the building. I commute in flip flops during the summer and the partners hate flip flops so I just switch shoes outside.

    2. Chinook*

      As someone who has to switch from outdoor to indoor shoes at work for half a year due to weather, all I can say is that you do look for comfortable walking shoes that look reasonable with dress clothes. I have also seen some women carrying shoe bags with draw strings so that, the moment they are out of the snow and slush, they switch shoes to something more work appropriate.

      Then again, around here it is not just comfort at play. Wearing the wrong shoes could cause you to slip and fall, twist an ankle or lose toes to frostbite.

  25. Britney*

    I’ve done the same! I once wore shorts to work on a 100+ degree day and changed at the office. It was a very casual office and I probably would have worn them all day if I wouldn’t have frozen to death inside

    At my current job I’ve started to change to athletic clothes on my way out. I usually go desk > bathroom > out the door.

  26. Gordon Morehouse*

    Holy wow, this is a question that would never be asked in Portland. :)

    We have people still wearing spandex cycling clothes from their commute at 10:30 meetings.

    1. Rana*

      Just so they’re not using “Mother’s Sun” deodorants. ;)

      (And I say that as a fan of natural deodorants, who has been burned by more than a few inadequate ones.)

    2. Windchime*

      Heh, I live just outside of Seattle. When my new boss started at this job, he showed up with his bike and in full spandex one morning (before changing). I said, “new dress code?” and he replied, “They said we couldn’t wear jeans. They didn’t say anything about spandex!”

      People don’t normally wear it all day here, but the boss and another guy on my team routinely bike to work and then shower and change when they get here.

  27. Tina Career Counselor*

    I do this is the summer, too. I overheat very easily, and between the humidity and crowds on public transportation, I’m miserable by the time I get to the office. I change as soon as I get there. I’d hope that people would find that less troublesome than me walking around in a sweaty shirt all day! No one has ever said anything to me about it.

  28. Cassie*

    Re: working out at lunch – it’s simpler if you have an office because you can just close the door, change your clothes, and head out the building. I’m in a cubicle and it’s a pain – I have to walk to the bathroom to change my clothes, walk back to my cubicle to put my stuff away, and then leave the building. Afterwards, I have to walk to my cubicle to get my work clothes and walk back to the bathroom to change. I guess I could just bring my work clothes with me to work out but it’s a pain to lug around.

    One of my coworkers sometimes changes into her workout clothes early (20-30 mins before she leaves) or doesn’t change back right after she returns. So she’s sitting there (or walking around) in her t-shirt and spandex pants which I wouldn’t feel comfortable in.

    Some of the coworkers have memberships to the univ gym nearby and they’ll shower there before coming back to work, but the ones that don’t, won’t. I sweat buckets and it would drive me insane to just sit back down at my desk without showering first.

    The gym does have a special membership just to use the showers (I think it’s like $25 per year?) – it’s for those people who bike to work.

    1. Alicia*

      Except for my office. Damn full-length glass door and window to the corridor, and floor-to-ceiling windows on the other side. I feel like I am in a fish bowl.

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