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MARKETANALYST.US / ECONOMY & WORK

How China's Youth Are Making a Loud Statement with 'Gross' Work Outfits

They are voicing their disapproval of harsh managers, subpar working conditions, low wages, and excessively long work hours.
PUBLISHED APR 28, 2024
Image Source: Photo by Antoni Shkraba | Pexels
Image Source: Photo by Antoni Shkraba | Pexels

Videos of people getting ready for work are becoming increasingly popular in China, but with a twist: they dress in their most ridiculous clothes. China's youth are dressing in their cosiest pajamas and silliest slippers, then making their way to the workplace. All in good humour, and a lighthearted method to voice disapproval of harsh managers, subpar working conditions, low wages, and excessively long work hours. They also post their amusing ensembles online with pride for everyone to see.

Image Source: Photo by MART  PRODUCTION | Pexels
Image Source: Photo by MART PRODUCTION | Pexels

Chinese people have been using hashtags like #ootd (outfit of the day) and #grossoutfitforwork to encourage others to join in and publish their humorous work apparel on social media for months. It's become a kind of competition to see who can design the most ridiculous costume.

On Weibo, a popular social networking site in China, the hashtag #grossoutfitforwork alone has received over 140 million views and prompted tens of thousands of discussions. In late February, a post on Douyin, China's answer to TikTok, by a user going by the handle Kendou S became viral. She revealed that her employer had chastised her for dressing in "gross" ways, despite her explanation that it was only her attempt to stay warm during the cold weather.

In a follow-up video that got a whopping 752,000 likes and was shared over 1.4 million times, Kendou S proudly flaunted one of her infamous outfits. She revealed layer upon layer of mismatched clothing – a fluffy white hat, a gray balaclava, scruffy red gloves, a puffer coat, a pink quilted jacket, a fleece sweater dress, plaid pajama bottoms, fur-lined slippers, and knee-high socks.

In response to similar posts, one woman shared a picture of herself wearing a bright neon yellow vest and loose knee-length shorts. She jokingly wrote, "My coworker says I dress like a wild man." Another person proudly displayed a dirty yellow and blue jacket, revealing, "My boss gave me 50 yuan (about 7 dollars) to wash my clothes and told me not to shake hands with clients anymore."

Then, there was a post that summed it up perfectly: "With such low pay and having to work with not-so-stylish coworkers, what else can you expect from my outfit?"

Image Source: Photo by Tim  Samuel | Pexels
Image Source: Photo by Tim Samuel | Pexels

After embracing the idea of "tang ping" or "lying flat," which is all about rejecting the stress of chasing after success and materialism, many young Chinese folks have been throwing "resignation parties" and some are even getting paid to essentially be "full-time children." The trend of wearing "gross outfits" seems to be another way for some disillusioned Gen Z individuals to make a statement, especially as the country faces tough economic times and sky-high youth unemployment rates.

Qiu said that although the extreme examples that have gone viral on social media are somewhat dramatic, working casual has always been common in China and is probably here to stay. He clarified that this is particularly true for younger workers who became accustomed to working from home during the pandemic, as well as for organizations where overtime and long hours spent staring at a computer screen are typical.

He added that although his staff members don't go to the same lengths as those in the viral videos, they do tend to be laid back. Staff members frequently arrive up in sweatpants, shorts, or even slippers, according to Qiu, and he doesn't mind at all as long as they maintain a respectable appearance.

Image Source: Photo by Armin  Rimoldi | Pexels
Image Source: Photo by Armin Rimoldi | Pexels

It's not that people who post internet photos of their oddball work attire are against looking well off the job. Many would rather not expose their prized garments to the "stench of work." There were differing views on the trend of dressing down for work in China's state-run media. Although they disapproved of the "lying flat" craze, they considered informal attire to be a kind of "self-deprecation" as long as it didn't interfere with work ethics.

Qiu, a fashion industry worker, moved to Shanghai and has since acquired a more relaxed look. His Hong Kong sharp suits are now mostly collecting dust. Some folks are posting pictures of their hilarious springtime work attire as the weather gets warmer. A user shared an image of an unusual pairing: filthy toe socks in the color mustard along with broken black sandals adorned with flashy plastic decorations.

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