Young Chinese Embrace ‘Gross Outfits’ at Work

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When the weather turned cold in December, Cindy Luo started to wear her fluffy pajamas over a hooded sweatshirt at the office. Wearing cozy sleepwear to work became a habit and soon she didn’t even bother to wear matching tops and bottoms, selecting whatever was most comfortable.

A few months later, she posted photos of herself to a “gross outfits at work” thread that had spread on Xiaohongshu, a Chinese app similar to Instagram. She was one of tens of thousands of young workers in China to proudly post pictures of themselves showing up at the office in onesies, sweatpants and sandals with socks. The just-rolled-out-of-bed look was shockingly casual for most Chinese workplaces.

“I just want to wear whatever I want,” said Ms. Luo, 30, an interior designer in Wuhan, a city in Hubei Province. “I just don’t think it’s worth spending money to dress up for work, since I’m just sitting there.”

Side-by-side social media photos of two people sporting leisure wear at work, one with red and black check pajama pants and the other with lime-green sweatpants and white and black furry slippers.
Young Chinese people are posting pictures of the “gross outfits” they are wearing to the office on the country’s social media platforms, including on Xiaohongshu, China’s version of Instagram.

Defying expectations for proper work attire reflects a growing aversion among China’s youth to a life of ambition and striving that marked the past few decades. As the country’s growth slows and promising opportunities recede, many young people are choosing instead to “lie flat,” a countercultural approach to seeking an easy and uncomplicated life. And now even those with steady jobs are staging a quiet protest.

The intentionally lackluster outfits became a social media movement when a user named “Kendou S-” posted a video last month on Douyin, the Chinese sibling service of TikTok. She showed off her work outfit: a fluffy brown sweater dress over plaid pajama pants with a pink, light-quilted jacket and furry slippers.

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