If your office is only a few steps from your living room, how do you dress like you still mean business? We asked our most fashionable friend and writer, Nick Carvell for advice.
What many people still don’t realise is that being freelance is still, you know, a job. I made the jump at the end of 2019 and one of the most common things people in desk-bound roles have said to me is how it must be great to make my own schedule – to get up slightly later and work in my pyjamas at the kitchen table.
And, sure, for the first couple of weeks this is totally true, and does feel incredibly liberating after a decade of rushing to clock-on at your HQ. However, every freelancer quickly realises that the way to be the most productive is to have a schedule, generally by emulating the behaviours of going to work at a traditional office.
For me, getting ready in the morning is essential to get my brain in the right space to work, and clothing is key to this. Of course, I don’t wear the same things I used to when I was a magazine editor in charge of a team, but having a ‘work uniform’ gets me in the mood for work – and during these colder months, I’ve honed what this is by embracing ‘warmcore’ (a term introduced to me by my good friend and one of the most stylish guys on the planet, photographer Robert Spangle).
As you can guess, this is a cosier version of ‘normcore’ – a way of dressing where practicality is just as prized as fashionability. Considering my day consists of walking our dog, getting out to an exercise class, maybe a meeting or two in the city, and getting a cappuccino from my local coffee shop, in addition to actually writing, hanging around in my PJs all day isn’t really an option.
So now my wardrobe has pivoted from tailored separates to being based around sporty, technical pieces that are cosy enough to wear at home but smart enough to seen in by real life humans. Of course, there are also jeans and boot here too for more rugged outings (my dog’s a mud-magnet as well as a jumper – tough combo), but I have invested in versions of these that mean I don’t really have to think about swapping too much out with my existing outfit so I don’t need a full costume change to go back and forth from the park.
So for all you fellow freelancers out there, here’s a few items that I’ve found indispensable for making my work day feel smarter and more professional since my office desk became the kitchen table…
Your new suit is a tracksuit
Maybe it’s a hangover from wearing tailoring at work, but there’s something about wearing a matching two-piece that makes me feel like I’m ready to work. However, as any man will tell you, sometimes sitting at a desk all day in a suit isn’t the most comfortable experience, so as a freelancer I looked for something more suited for home that replicated the general vibe – and a tracksuit was the obvious choice. The key is to think of it like a suit – look for a superb fit (something tailored to your body type, not slouchy), high quality fabric and a brand that knows what they’re talking about.
I can’t recommend the new tracksuits from Aime Leon Dore highly enough. Available in seven colours with coordinating sweatshirt, hoodie, T-shirt and short options, it’s a shortcut to the perfect week-long freelance wardrobe – however, for versatility, I’d say the navy is your safest bet.
Out of office footwear
While I still have the more formal loafers and brogues I wore to work tucked away in my wardrobe for special occasions, I find I only really wear three types of shoes on a regular basis now. As I now spend most of my time padding around the house, the pair I spend the most time in are my Birkenstock clogs, which serve both to keep my feet warm on our wood floors and make me far more professional than if I was working in my socks.
Second are a pair of crisp, white trainers for if I’m leaving the house to dip into polite society but don’t need a full costume change – perhaps a meeting locally or a grabbing a coffee (I particularly like Yatay as not only are they sleek and straightforward, but they’re also made in Italy from sustainable and/or vegan materials).
And last but not least, are my Chelsea boots, needed for bad weather and dog walks – something that can be slipped on easily and won’t get ruined if exposed to mud and rain. I recommend RM Williams’ ‘Urban Turnout’ model, which not only keeps your feet toasty and dry, but also has serious grip that’s no match for rain-slicked streets.
A streetwear-inspired fleece
As a fashion journalist, I have always loved items that err on the more eye-catching side of things. Right now, thanks to the dominance of streetwear on the fashion scene, we’re living through the golden age of the fleece – great news because now you can get all the warmth of practicality your dad enjoyed while he was doing the gardening without actually looking like your dad.
And while it goes without saying that if it’s chucking it down with rain you’re going to need something a little more waterproof, a sturdy zip-up or popover fleece provides all the coverage you need if wind whips up or a light shower unexpectedly occurs while you’re out. Go for something bright and comfortable, like this tri-coloured little number from Nike that will make popping out of the house to grab some lunch feel like a proper event.
A good pair of jeans is the most versatile clothing you’ll own
Joggers are great for working at home or heading to the gym, but sometimes you need something a bit hardier if you have to pop out. A pair of jeans is a more rugged option if you’re taking the kids to school or planning on spending a little longer away from your home-based desk (say, a day in a co-working space) and need something more serious, but still comfortable.
Look out for a pair that has a little elastane in the fabric (like these from Everlane) for added give, and choose a wash that matches your existing pieces to ensure they go with everything – with the selection above, I would recommend black.
A side effect of the athleisure boom is a whole host of labels that made their names crafting exercise kit have now started making clothes you can wear outside of the gym using the same technical materials. Lululemon leads the way with this, and now offers a collection of cool pieces that will keep you smart and warm, as well as sweat and crumple-free, if you need to slip on something a little smarter than your fleece.
Particularly impressive (and recommended) is the Canadian brand’s Parkway shirt jacket, which is crafted from stretchy, water-repellent fabric and cut slim for a sleek silhouette. Perfect for slipping on with your joggers if you have a last-minute meeting after that morning spin class.