Athleisure has so permeated American culture that even the old-school fashion police at the Defense Department have taken notice. As of Monday, you’re now allowed to wear your workout gear when you’re picking up groceries on base.
Keep in mind, though, that the outfit must be “clean, serviceable and in good condition, and appropriately modest,” Esper wrote.
Service members and their dependents had bemoaned for years that they couldn’t pick up milk or batteries without thinking about the dress code, but it seems that 2020′s work-from-home, casual-comfort aesthetic has finally made an impression at the military’s highest levels.
Esper’s memo gives an all-clear for civilians, but adds that the service secretaries can tighten the new dress code for troops “based on mission requirements and the need to maintain good order and discipline,” he wrote.
The move is an usual order for a defense secretary to issue, but it falls in line with some of Esper’s previous efforts as Army secretary.
To kick off 2019, Esper ended the mandate for soldiers to wear reflective PT belts while working out during the day, as long as they stay on running tracks, closed roads or otherwise away from car traffic.
A few months earlier, he did away with the Army’s mandatory weekend safety brief.
Both moves were part of an effort to “prioritize lethality,” doing away with irksome training requirements and other involuntary rules that didn’t directly contribute to readiness.
Esper told Army Times in 2018 that he and Army Gen. Mark Milley, then the chief of staff and now the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, were working to “empower our junior leaders and make them responsible, and to give them the freedom to train the soldiers in their units the way they feel is best to improve the readiness and lethality of their team.”
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.