Culture

Introducing: The Workwear Woman

Advocate of premium-casual silhouettes and walker of teeny tiny dogs.
04 March 2020, 9:15am
Introducing: The Workwear Woman
Image by Esme Blegvad
Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 14
Welcome to 'Introducing', where we get acquainted with Britain's weird and wonderful new subcultures. 

Nowhere in London are you ever more than six feet away from a rat. In some areas of London – specifically those where there's a Soho House – you're also never more than six feet away from a woman wearing culottes, Veja trainers and a tight blonde bun, styled with the precision of a brain surgeon.

This advocate of premium-casual silhouettes and walker of small dogs in expensive little coats (do NOT waste her time with large or cheaply dressed dogs), I will christen the Workwear Woman, for her love of Carhartt and fatigue pants knows no bounds – despite the fact she sits at a desk for her graphic design or fashion buying job, and recently hired someone from an app to put together her Ikea deliveries.

During the week, you're most likely to catch her around Soho, Shoreditch or anywhere else with a high concentration of WeWorks, and on Saturdays and Sundays you'll find her battling the crowds on a small but popular market selling pastries and £100 hand-woven rugs (I am talking about Broadway Market). Here, she can be observed discerningly selecting a sourdough loaf, or sitting outside a neo-traditional boozer (think worn-in leather booths and a really brilliant selection of IPAs), drinking a Bloody Mary in a practical but chic Puffa, next to her boyfriend who is: a) dressed the same, and b) won't stop talking about how he wishes he'd studied architecture after approx. two pints.

When it comes to beauty, she prefers to go natural. She wears only Glossier – what else? – but her ever-present gel manicure, which she has refreshed more frequently than most people have periods, is her weakness (at the moment it's neon green, but she'll probably switch back to her usual pinky-beige soon). Her home (expensive but rented one bed in east London) is her castle, if castles looked like cafés that sell £5 sandwiches. She's firmly committed to the minimalist aesthetic – except for when it comes to indoor plants, of course; she loves her monstera more than all of her first cousins – and her Instagram is full of pictures of light leaks against her hardwood floor, captioned "golden hour".

From whence, however, did she come? Many of the city archetypes we now know and tolerate emerged from old ones – the Craft Beer Guy, for example, used to be a Coffee Shop Hipster when hipsters were still a thing; Utility Vest And Electronic Music Boys used to be, and in some cases still are, riverside skaters – but the Workwear Woman feels like something different.

She seems to be partly a product of the pared-back, but immaculately executed, Scandi aesthetics which have been injected into UK culture over the last few years, partly via the popularity of the hygge interiors aesthetic around 2016, and partly via the emergence onto the UK high street of a few chains owned by Scandinavian parent company H&M (Arket, Weekday and Cos, for example, all fall under the H&M umbrella).

The Scandi look is all about elevated basics – clean lines, comfort, quality materials, medical death as preferential to a leg cut below the ankle – so that accounts for one part of the style trend. The other part is probably accounted for by the popularity of American workwear brands – like Carhartt, Stan Ray, and Dickies – which have found a new life under the umbrella of streetwear.

All of these brands supply "well-made" clothes, which are expensive, but not prohibitively so, sturdily constructed and built to last. As such, the Workwear Woman is constantly telling everyone how much better they are for the environment than fast fashion "pieces", even though she still buys about 15 different chore jackets from Goodhood every month. Speaking of the environment, she does use both a Chilly's bottle (matte black) and a Keep Cup (glass with cork outer rim), but she can't quite shake her private belief that the little white disposable cups with the black lids that you get with a flat white are actually very chic.

Despite her pricey tastes and particular affectations, however, the Workwear Woman’s heart is in the right place: she votes Labour and sometimes still reposts little illustrations about the European Union on her Instagram story, though she doesn’t always think too deeply about what that means. She's left-wing but materialistic; compassionate but ultimately image-conscious, and in these ways she embodies a set of contradictions which are pretty well representative of millennials at large. She's just wearing way, way nicer trousers than the rest of us.

@hiyalauren