If you look at a picture of the City of London from the the 1950s, one of those black and white numbers that show hundreds of office workers dashing down Threadneedle Street, despite the differing faces, there will be one common thread, every man will be wearing a suit and tie, carrying an umbrella and possibly wearing a bowler hat.
In those days there was a set code for office wear, which made things very simple. Today like in many avenues of life, the code has become significantly eroded, if there is any code at all. In the House of Commons earlier today David Cameron told the famously ‘relaxed’ Jeremy Corbyn that, if asked, his mother would tell the Labour leader to ‘put on a proper suit and do up your tie”. It was a jarring comment that does not necessarily fit with the times.
Casual style at work has become increasingly popular in the last decade, following the lead of laid back Silicon Valley technology start-ups. Mark Zuckerberg is famous for sporting a hoody and other renown managers are keen to pair bright coloured trainers with monochrome suits. Many companies found that the emphasis on individuality and creativity made for a happier, more productive working environment. In the creative industries a tie would even be considered a dirty word, an old fashioned garment that represents everything the cultural revolution of the last twenty years has worked to destroy.
And yet, it’s not quite that simple. Although scruffiness at work may be well and truly in vogue, their is still something about the suit, when worn correctly, that exudes style, sophistication and, most importantly, trust.
There is still a feeling that a person who wields great power, cannot do so in a t-shirt. That a person who deals in life and death, the lives of people, cannot do so in an open neck shirt. Wearing a suit, especially in a world where formality is not as prevalent as it used to be, shows that a degree of care has been taken. This person is not slapdash, this person considers how he is viewed by other people.
To declare the suit ‘dead and buried’ would be a mistake. The highest bar of male style is still an excellent suit, just look as those men considered style icons, the Duke of Windsor, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper even Prince Charles, all excellent purveyors of English tailoring. The age of the suit may be over, but formal style does still have its virtues.