New research shows that only ten per cent of men wear a suit to work – and yet more than ever are wearing them outside office hours. So what happened?
Ever since America exported the concept of “Casual Friday” in the Eighties, office spaces have become far more accommodating of outfits that don’t include a tie and tailoring. Add to that a generation of young men more interested in what they wear than ever before thanks to the menswear boom of the early 2000’s, plus a job boom in the cool (and generally dress code-free) media sector, and you’ve got all the elements for sartorial rebellion.
But actually if you look a little closer, you’ll notice that the suit hasn’t really gone anywhere. From high fashion catwalks to the local bar on a Saturday night – you’ll see a flurry of matching tailoring on show. The suit might not be being worn to the office anymore, but somehow it’s transformed into an item worn on your downtime, with the sole intention to impress. It’s the Suit: Reloaded.
What we’re seeing right now is the next logical evolution of the item. Having been in a man’s wardrobe in its modern two-piece form since the 19th Century, the modern suit was designed to enhance certain elements of a man’s physique (to give your broader shoulders and a narrower waist) and give the new middle-class man a sense of added physical presence in the paperwork-based Victorian officespace where physical prowess no longer mattered.
However, the way suits are being worn now in the out-of-office environment is a rebellion against what the suit had become as officewear – reclaiming the suit as a way to express yourself – even choosing your cut to reflect your personality.
Right now, no matter which kind of cut you choose, the challenge is to take your suit and make it casual – slip under a T-shirt or unbuttoned dress shirt.
Traditional accessories have also given way to a new generation of accoutrements to add interest to your tailoring: perhaps most notably, shoes. Now you’re more likely to see men wearing trainers, mules or, for the boldest among us, cowboy boots with their suits.
And with the only real rule being that the jacket and trousers have to match, there’s plenty on the market for every budget and personal style.
The suit is dead – long live the new suit!