August 8, 2022

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I’ve been trying to work out why, having never been a suit wearer, they are...

I’ve been trying to work out why, having never been a suit wearer, they are suddenly all I want to wear. Over the years, I have dressed for the office in trousers and shirts, or dresses and blazers, or skirts and sweaters – pretty much any combination of clothes. Except that I’ve never worn a matching jacket and trousers, or matching jacket and skirt.
I would no more have worn a suit to the office than I would have put on a hard hat, or chef’s whites, or scrubs. A suit felt like a school uniform: if you have to wear it, you wear it, but if it’s not mandated, it’s not a getup you adopt for fun. That would be odd. My mum bought me a skirt suit – plum colour, nubbly wool, from Hobbs – for my university interviews. I still remember how I felt wearing it, waiting nervously in stuffy corridors, conscientiously play-acting calm and competent adulthood.

Suits are back in vogue, just when you might think they’d be out of favour, which makes no sense, except that it’s how fashion works

Until 2021, I had never bought a suit. Going back to the office this year has felt a little bit like conscientiously play-acting competent adulthood again. After I’d spent months quietly pouring words into a laptop at home, the theatre of office life, with its swipecards, strip lights, printer noises and hydraulic chairs that wheeze up and down, feels like a lo-fi, slow-motion fairground. In the form of actual human beings, colleagues expect more interaction and constructive feedback than the dog, who is thrilled with a pat on the head and the odd snack. The shenanigans of getting a canteen coffee is cacophonous compared with the slippered shuffle to the kettle.
A suit is the ultimate going-to-work cosplay, and that feels like just what I need, so I’ve started wearing a trouser suit. Strictly, it’s not a suit, just a pair of flecked wool tailored trousers from Jigsaw that I realised were almost the exact same shade of grey as an unstructured Cos blazer in my wardrobe. Putting the two together was a baby-steps approach to suit wearing, like letting the air out of swimming armbands little by little.

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Suits are back in vogue, just when you might think they’d be falling out of favour – which makes no sense, except that it is exactly how fashion works. Marks & Spencer has announced it is axing men’s suits from half of its larger stores, in response to the casualisation of our wardrobes.
Meanwhile, I am seeing more suits at fashion shows – on both men and women, on the catwalk, and on the front row – than ever before. There were trouser suits all over the London catwalks; Paris was packed with peppy miniskirt suits. The very fact of the suit becoming optional, of no longer being rigidly synonymous with a certain kind of office discipline, is giving it a new lease of life.

So, the big news is that I’ve discovered a suit is a brilliant formula for smart daywear. Who knew? Ah yes, good point – probably the tens of millions of people who have been wearing suits to work for decades. But not me. I don’t tend to wear my suit-that-isn’t-a-suit with a traditional shirt, because I quickly feel crumpled, but I’m a scruff. The suit is brilliant with buttoned-up polo shirts, with a ribbed cardigan tucked in, or – now that it’s cooler – with a chunky funnel-neck knit.
My next stop is a skirt suit. I have in mind a skirt that’s not too short, with an oversized jacket, probably double-breasted. I’m thinking tights, and probably loafers. I don’t think I’ve ever lusted over a more conventional look in my life. And I don’t think I’ve ever felt more of a maverick.

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