Analysis: It has been removed from the basket of goods that are used to calculate UK’s annual inflation rate, but it is still thriving
Although it might have been removed from the basket of goods used for calculating the UK’s annual inflation rate, that does not mean it is dead. It was the end of the classic business suit for men. If that were true, then surely the Office for National Statistics would have replaced the suit with tracksuit bottoms or even shorts. It has been replaced by a “formal jacket or blazer”. This is an admission that the two years of pandemic living have changed our sartorial habits, but not completely.
Many of us began to work from home and offices were vacated. This led to a shift in “top-down dressing.” (Remember the “Zoom shirt?”). When Covid restrictions were removed by the government, many of us had to reevaluate our wardrobes and get rid of our commuting clothes. The transition from elasticated waistbands and Uggs to formal trousers and brogues has been a tricky one, however, and most of us are navigating our new style somewhere in between.
In 2021, Marks & Spencer produced a range of “semi suits” featuring the kind of stretchy fabric one might associate with sports attire. The head of menswear design at M&S told us that customers are seeking hybrid pieces that can be worn to work, but also offer the comfort and casual style they are accustomed to.
This is what I believe, one year later. While office workers long for the convenience of their work-from-home wardrobe, they also want options that exude professionalism. This is a “casualization” of our wardrobe, which is not casual. The current definitions of “hybrid dress” and “casualisation”, have nothing to do with the “smart casual”, which was associated with provincial rigidity and slovenliness. It is simply about reducing the rigid boundaries between formal wear and casual wear.
The suit’s performance at Sunday night’s Baftas was more impressive than Peaky Blinders or No Time To Die. Stars wore a mixture of traditional and new styles (Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston in classic cuts), and the more modern (Questlove wearing a robe with Crocs and Daniel Kaluuya sporting the Prada turquoise furry armbands). This suggests that the suit is becoming more conceptual than time-honored. It is a concept that requires its wearer to be creative and expressive.
The suit in all its forms, however, isn’t dead. It is actually thriving. Let’s get creative with our “formal jacket” or blazer.