Time was when a bright eyed fellow going into the workplace would be taken for his first suit by his father (ledgers show that a young Winston Churchill was taken to Henry Poole in 1893 by his father), fitted up and briskly ushered into a smart pinstriped or navy blue number. That template - give or take inches on the waist - would likely remain the same throughout his working career. Not so today.
The security enjoyed by the Baby Boomers is no longer a mainstay for younger generations, and the same applies to their wardrobes. Private members’ club 12 Hay Hill reported this week that in surveying 2000 members of the pubic, two thirds of men felt smart casual clothes are appropriate at work, with only 8% of men wearing a suit to work, over half opting to go without a tie and decreeing jeans acceptable for work. Hay Hill is in the heart of the polished Georgian railings of Mayfair, not an edgy We Work in the heart of Shoreditch, which makes the results more noteworthy.
Zip up knit top, £200, Paul Smith
It’s also a sentiment echoed amongst menswear’s biggest players, with behemoth brands such as Ermenegildo Zegna, Brunello Cucinelli and Dior Homme preoccupying themselves with ways in which to make a suit contemporary, either by pairing jackets with athletic trousers or changing the cut and silhouette of tailoring altogether (the former has created, for example, a jacket that’s a medium point between a single and double breasted). All of which begs the question(s); how do or should men dress in the workplace today?
Let’s start from the ground up; the smart trainer might sound like a dubious Apple launch, but it’s been a quiet revolution in men’s footwear in recent years, with the sporty accessory undergoing a remake to align it more with the kind of handsome leather shoes you’d see on Jermyn Street than JD Sports.
In glossy patinas or subtle-shaded suede, they’re easily paired with smart trousers and a blazer for a sense of dynamism (and if you want to get pseudo-sociopolitical about it, dynamism in the office has been more important in how men present themselves since the recession, hence the rise in cosmetic surgery for business men).
Jarrett polo shirt, £95, Orlebar Brown
And while a crisp white shirt will always be a key component of a man’s wardrobe, it’s no longer the lynchpin of a working wardrobe. Instead more men are opting for less upright options; a tracktop rendered in knitwear, for example, or a neat polo shirt - paired with a blazer, it’s preppy without being overly starched. And while the suit might be under scrutiny, there’s no reason it has to carry overly formal connotations.
Brands such as Zegna, as well as Paul Smith and Hugo Boss have introduced machine washable suits, made with tech materials that make for a more fluid, easy approach, happily thrown on with a T-shirt or polo instead of the upright ceremony of Savile Row tailoring (a beautiful thing though it undoubtedly is).
Resource: BY Stephen Doig