When Fridays turned casual

Jeans and T-shirts weren't usually OK for work, but by 1995 more workplaces had relaxed the rules for the last day before the weekend.

In 1995, more workplaces were relaxing dress codes for one day a week

Casual look for Fridays

28 years ago
Duration 3:12
More workplaces begin adopting a casual dress code for the last day of the work week in 1995.

In the COVID-19 era, when the "work-from-home army" has grown large enough to threaten the fashion industry, what people wear while on the job has largely ceased to matter.

Jeans and T-shirts weren't usually OK for work in 1995. But as the CBC's Peter Mansbridge said on CBC's The National 25  years ago, more workplaces were permitting staff to leave their suits, ties and heels at home one day a week.

"Fridays have become casual days in offices across the country," he explained, introducing a report from Toronto by reporter Denise Harrington.

"Power dressing is out, and comfort clothes are in."

Casual business

A teller is seen on a Friday wearing clothes that may have seemed more suitable for the beach than the bank. (The National/CBC Archives)

"More and more on Fridays, this is how Canadians are going to the office," said Harrington, as the camera caught scenes of commuters in denim and short-sleeved shirts with few ties in sight. 

At one office, the business of ringing telephones, fluorescent lights and rows of glowing computers seemed to contrast with the casual shorts and chambray shirts its workers wore.

And at a bank in Toronto's financial district, "it's hard to tell the staff from the customers," said Harrington.

'More lightness to the mood'

"Oh good, I can just put on my jeans," said a woman who described her thoughts upon waking up on a Friday morning. (The National/CBC Archives)

But human resources manager Wendy Ansai, who was wearing jeans and a collarless blouse, said the clothes people wore on Fridays didn't change things.

"People are still professional, and still business as usual," she said. But on Fridays, she found there was "a little bit more lightness to the mood, maybe." 

In Vancouver, casual Fridays had also become the norm — with a twist.

At the offices of accounting firm Ernst & Young, employees wanting to dress casually were encouraged to make a donation to a food bank or charity. 

Ottawa image consultant Lynn McKay said flip-flops, cycling shorts and short-shorts on women working in "major customer-care centres" were "inappropriate." (The National/CBC Archives)

Interviewed on the street, people liked "the casual style," said Harrington.

"It makes the week seem almost shorter," said one woman.

"Do I miss the tie? On a Friday?" said a man in a printed T-shirt. "No."

But a man wearing a tie thought it was possible to carry casual Fridays too far.

"People call, want to see you ... they don't want to see you showing up in a T-shirt and jeans," he said. 

"Comfort clothes" like jeans and casual shirts were becoming the Friday norm instead of suits and ties in 1995. (The National/CBC Archives)

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