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January 10, 2014

Workout Wear Friday? No sweat, boss!

There's dressing for success. There's dressing for the gym.

And then there's Dress Pant Yoga Pants. The $88 trousers with belt loops, faux pockets and sun-salutation-ready stretch are the creation of Betabrand, a San Francisco apparel company that also produces the similar Dress Pant Sweatpants for men. Although they might sound like novelty items, clothes that can go straight from your workout to your work (or vice versa) are going to come in handy in 2014.

That's because this isn't just a column. It's a pitch for offices across the country to embrace my big idea: "Workout Wear Friday." The basic premise is that people in fitness gear are more likely to exercise — or at least to think about it. So let's get everyone in comfortable, moisture-wicking outfits once a week to demonstrate our commitment to physical activity.

"This has legs," says Rick Miller, who has experience changing the fabric of American society. Back in the early '90s, when he was doing public relations work for Levi's, he and his team championed a wacky idea called Casual Friday. They distributed a guide that suggested polished looks with khakis and jeans, and a new sort of office style was born.

One secret to their success? Loosening up the dress code was a no-cost benefit to offer employees.

The timing is even better now, Miller adds. Companies are once again pinching pennies, and they're more concerned than ever about rising health-care costs. Plus, social media could help spread the trend faster than you can say "selfie."

Bruce Elliott, manager of compensation and benefits at the Society for Human Resource Management, agrees that appealing to the bottom line is the way to sell companies on the concept.

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