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Here's why the Chinese Youth Are Deliberately Wearing Ugly Ensembles to Office

From getting chastised by their bosses to feeling stressful from trying to keep up with the expensive fashion trends, young Chinese workers are turning to wear unflattering clothes to work.
Cover Image Source: Douyin | Kendou S
Cover Image Source: Douyin | Kendou S

From a more formal outfit at the workplace to the more comfortable apparel that replaced it as people were working from home during the pandemic, the way people dress is also an essential part of workplace trends. China may have had its cultural revolution decades back, but it looks like young Chinese workers are now staging their own online rebellion against dressing immaculately and it's not just about following a trend. According to CNN, Chinese youth are throwing on their worst of the worst outfits and heading off to work in mismatched clothes.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Yan Krukau
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Yan Krukau

They are supposedly making a statement against bosses who chastise them for the way they dress, poor working conditions, and low pay. Chinese office workers are using hashtags like #grossoutfitforwirk and #uglyclothesshouldbeforwork on the Chinese version of TikTok called Douyin and sharing their less-flattering work outfits with the community. These hashtags have gained over 140 million views on the platform and the trend also followed up on another Chinese social site, Weibo.

The trend went viral in February 2024 when a Douyin user named Kendou S made a video on the platform to claim that she got ridiculed by her boss for wearing her "gross" outfit to work which she had put together to battle the cold weather. Her video gained a lot of attention and she made a second video to reveal her so-called "gross" outfit. The ensemble consisted of a mismatched bunch of clothing such as a pair of plaid pajama bottoms, a fluffy white hat, gray balaclava, red gloves, a puffer coat, a pink quilted jacket, fleece sweater dress along with a pair of fur-lined slippers and knee-high stockings.

Image Source: Douyin | xiǎo hú yā
Image Source: Douyin | Xiao Xiao Hu Ya

 Another woman on Douyin also made a similar post where she showed herself wearing neon yellow vests and baggy knee-length shorts to work. “My coworker says I dress like a wild man,” she wrote alongside her video. The Chinese youth, who are facing economic hardships and a higher rate of unemployment, are hitting out at the system through this online trend. The rate of unemployment in December 2023 was 14.9% for people aged between 16 to 24 in China, per the outlet.

“They’re kind of like, why bother when your work and future life prospect is not looking that bright,” said Bohan Qiu, the 29-year-old founder of the Boh Project, a Shanghai and Seoul-based consultancy. “Before they saw working as chasing a dream and the companies motivated everyone to fight for the economic pie," he added. Qiu further shared that the staff in his company might not dress like those riding the "gross outfit" trend but they "do tend to dress down." Some employees show up in sweatpants, shorts, and slippers, and all of it is accepted as long as "they look cool."

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Henry & Co.
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Henry & Co.

Qiu himself has started to dress down after moving to Shanghai and the suits he used to wear in Hong Kong are now locked up in his closet. According to Statista's survey about the understanding of fashion among Chinese in 2021, around 47% of respondents stated they believe fashion is the pursuit of a better life. Approximately 37% of respondents defined fashion as a presentation of popular elements. 

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A post shared by CNN (@cnn)


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