Woman Notices That Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X & Boomers Have Completely Different Ideas Of What ‘Work-Appropriate’ Attire Means

Clothes hold meaning, no matter what generation you belong to.

woman in office Vitaly Gariev / Unsplash

After offices shut down in 2020, work culture shifted in a major way. The morning commute went from fighting traffic jams and crowded sidewalks to rolling out of bed and settling in on a well-worn corner of the couch.

As companies announced back-to-office-mandates, workers were faced with another challenge: deciding what to wear in the face of our new normal.

We went from working in suits to working in sweats. Now, as we're trickling back into offices, we're left wondering if we have to put those suits back on, and it turns out that each generation has a radically different mindset when it comes to corporate style.


One woman noticed that Gen Z, millennials, Gen X, and boomers have very different ideas about ‘work-appropriate’ attire.

Kourtlynn Faith shared her fashion-forward perspective, breaking down various OOTDs based on generation.

“If you work in corporate, it is so funny to see how each generation dresses for work,” she said. “It’s funny to see what each generation deems as ‘work-appropriate’ attire.”

@kourtlynn_ I want to do a documentary on the different generations in the workplace. Fascinating stuff. #fy #genz #boomer #corporate #corporatelife #officelife #workoutfits #millennial #genx ♬ original sound - Kourtlynn Faith

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Boomers are “business professionals,” she explained. “Full stop, business professional.”

“A boomer man is going to wear a suit and tie to work every single day, or he might switch it out for a sweater vest, but it’s gonna be a suit and tie.”

Boomers, who were born between 1946 and 1964, came of age in an era when propriety was essential. Men wore hats that they removed indoors, and women wore gloves and skirts that fell below their knees.

man wearing suit in office RDNE Stock Project / Pexels


Many boomer women broke the glass ceiling with their faces, taking on jobs that had been traditionally denied to them. 

It’s no wonder that women in their 60s and 70s dress up to go to work. Wearing conservative outfits and makeup was a way to insist that they be taken seriously in a world where they had to etch out their own place.

As Boomers near the age where they'd ostensibly tap out of work and retire, Gen Xers and millennials are taking over in numbers, which means an inevitable change in workplace wear.

The Gen Zer waxed poetic about Gen X and millennial fashion compared to other generations.

“Gen X and Millennials, they definitely play it safe,” she said, explaining that they “Go down to their nearest Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic.”


“They will eat up a blouse with a flat or maybe some heels on a good day,” Faith said.

woman wearing hat smiling Felipe Galvan / Unsplash

As an Elder Millennial, I distinctly remember the messaging sent out by lady mags of the late '90s, which was centered around going from the office to the club without changing outfits.

In this bizarro world, you could ostensibly leave work at 5 p.m. and walk into a cocktail bar 15 minutes later, wearing sensible slacks, a blouse with a jaunty pattern, and ballet flats. This outfit screamed, “professional but ready to party.”


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Faith noted that “Some women in their 40s are dressing down. You can tell they have money to buy work clothes” before explaining her Gen Z mindset on fashion in the workplace.

Gen Z has a much more thrifty mindset when it comes to dressing for work.

“I’m not spending my money on work clothes,” Faith said. “I am going to rotate the [expletive] out of everything that I have for work.”


woman holding tote bag good faces / Unsplash

“It’s either I’m paying for work clothes, or I’m paying for clothes to go out,” she said, a statement that captures Gen Z’s changing attitude toward work, in general: It’s a means to an end and not the end-all-be-all that gives their lives meaning.

“Gen Z is definitely business casual but with a little bit of oomph, just a little bit of extra,” Faith said. “Gen Z loves a New Balance sneaker… It’s gonna be, like, a New Balance sneaker with a maxi skirt and a plain top.”


This Gen Z look touches on a style my elder millennial self remembers from flipping through Delia’s magazines, a store that captured every early-aught girlie’s fashion dreams.  

Faith described another popular Gen Z workplace look: “A New Balance Sneaker with a two-piece set, and that two-piece set probably has a vest.”

“Don’t let Gen Z get a hold of an oversized blazer,” she continued. “We love an oversized blazer.”


“I do know there is a very big generational difference,” Faith said, concluding her deep dive into how the generation gap influences fashion.

What we wear reflects how we see ourselves and how we want the world to see us. Fashion is political in that each generation takes it and makes it its own, imbuing it with social and cultural resonance.

After years of wearing suits, ties, and heels, putting on sneakers could almost be seen as a radical act of comfort and style, a way to say that there are more valuable things in life than just our jobs.


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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers social issues, pop culture, and all things to do with the entertainment industry.