For most of my 20s, my office uniform was fairly straightforward: a black dress, perhaps a cardigan to rally against air-conditioning overuse, and maybe on a good day - shiny ballet flats. Hardly the most comfortable or functional clothes, but this rinse-and-repeat approach streamlined mornings, kept the closet small, and made that part of life relatively hassle free for a while.
Two years ago I decided to change careers and go into creative work and video production full-time. This meant that the dress, cardigan, and flats were into a big cardboard box that I hoped I would never have to see again. Rather than fighting the almost always unnecessarily frigid, air conditioned offices I was used to working in, my work environment would go from a semi-tropical jungle one day (with swarms of mosquitoes instead of colleagues), to frozen nothingness the next.
Out went pens, staples, and paperclips. In went flying lens caps, memory cards that always seemed to jump out of my storage boxes, and call-sheets that were never where I left them the day prior. For the first time, pockets were imperative to making my job easier - and the more pockets, the better.
Around this time, I decided to bring the W’menswear tropical fieldwork suit with me on a work trip around the forests and rivers of the Tohoku region to see how I'd fare trying to scramble around waterfalls with all my camera gear.
Jumpsuits in general have a rich history, and were primarily used for war work during WW2; their simple design meant parachuters could suit up and do their incredibly dangerous work quickly and efficiently, while insulating and protecting skin. The fieldwork suit took everything I threw at it and more, with its ripstop nylon drying at record speed after trudging through a creek for a good camera angle, or even just suiting up and getting out for a 4AM call time at record speed. In a way, the jumpsuit was like an extension of my gear list, something that helped get the job done.
At the moment, as with most people who have shifted to working from home, I haven’t found much use for the office uniform or the jumpsuit, although there seems to be a growing trend of using office wear at home to get in the working groove. Perhaps there is also something to be said about the psychological effects of workwear or of a self-imposed uniform, not only shielding us from the winds of a tropical monsoon or a leaky aircon, but also giving us a sense of purpose and feeling at place in the work we choose to do.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, as important as it is to stay inside for the time being, I’m looking forward to the next time I can wring the water from my trousers after a wrap.
Words and images by Anne Berry.