I wore tight jeans for the first time in months recently.

Had I missed the jig required to pull them into place? No. The way they tighten around my knees when I bend, or sit, or stretch? Not really. But did I feel a sense of achievement? You betcha.

After months working from home, office life seems like a long-forgotten dream. And leaving behind a comforting uniform of tracksuit pants and leggings – “soft pants” – seems like a nightmare.

But a return to work doesn’t necessitate a return to “hard pants”. We’ve rounded up five stylish gateway styles to coax you out of your loungewear.

Wide-leg wonders
Drape-y shapes, ample ankle room and freewheeling knees. Some of our favourite wide-leg styles include these handmade Australian-wool pants from Adelaide’s Good Studios ($299); Elk’s Abeline pants, which exude Hollywood golden-age glam ($149); and these simple high-waisted Uniqlo pants ($19.90). Obus’s funky culottes ($129) – striped with fuchsia, emerald green, ochre and deep blue – add a pop of colour too.

Elastic waists
Buttons and zips don’t equal efficiency. These swoosh-y navy pants by Melbourne’s Sister Studios ($180) are office-appropriate and have an adjustable waist tie. Likewise, Sydney-based Venroy’s cotton-twill lounge pants ($170) can be dressed up or down. These sunny Scrunchie pants ($247) are designed, cut and sewn by Byron Bay-based designer Mimi Holvast. And Melbourne-born Kloke’s Centre Stage pants ($240) are elastic-waisted, shaped by a clever front seam and made with vintage-look textured cotton. For something equally appropriate at work as on the couch there’s Base Range’s ribbed fleece pants ($180), and Melbourne boutique Monkhouse Design has made its own Relaxed pant ($150) in a range of fabrics.

Tailored trousers
Tailored trousers are flattering, stylish and versatile. Uniqlo’s Ezy ankle pants ($39.90) are made with wrinkle-resistant fabric so you don’t even need to iron them. For effortless elegance, try Viktoria & Woods’ Australian-made slim-legged Gateway pants ($300) in black. These luxurious high-waisted silk pants from Byron Bay’s St Agni ($399) have hidden pockets. Caves Collect’s high-waisted wool pants ($310) have a slight A-line leg, giving you room to move, and are handmade in Melbourne. Another sustainable Melbourne brand, Kuwaii, has made these all-season, easy-fit corduroys ($299). And for a unique silhouette, try these balloon-fit Arnsdorf trousers ($340).

Practical pants
Cargos are back, baby. Stan Ray’s striped painter pants ($145) aren’t as restrictive as jeans but are just durable and reliable. Bassike’s utility chinos ($160) have a clean minimal finish; and these slightly structured Safari pants ($359) are designed and sewn in Adelaide.

Relaxed denim
There’s no getting around it: denim is for hard pants. But not all jeans are created equally constrictive. YMC’s classic jeans ($206) have a relaxed drop fit; Australian label Nique’s Umeko jeans ($59) are cropped and wide with a soft shade of stone grey. And finally, Assembly Label’s high-waist flare jeans ($100) are crafted from soft cotton and go with just about anything (and any location).