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How casual wear is now overtaking the sharp suit for work. The pandemic has provoked a revolutionary change in fashion.

author thumbnail

Cathy Sayers

Content Editor

1st October 2021

5 min Read

I once heard of a guy going into a London gallery in jeans and a tshirt - not sure whether or not it was personalised, but hey ho. He then sat on the floor of this prestigious premises and surveyed the pictures on the wall in front of him sipping a Starbucks or some such well known coffee brand.

So this guy’s demeanor was distinctly downbeat, not scruffy but certainly not the smartly dressed clientele the staff in Mayfair were used to. They were slightly bewildered about how to approach someone with such a casual approach. After a while he struck up conversation. He’d been studying the art hard. But it wasn’t to ask ‘what do you sell here & tell me more about it,’ it was ‘I am interested in this picture - how much ?’ Maybe you’ve guessed it, the man turned out to be a multi millionaire and didn’t buy one work of art but several…..

So I suppose the point is that casual wear these days doesn’t necessarily mean a casual approach to life. Wearing a personalised hoodie, with the mantra “Keep Calm & Carry On” may be appropriate here ! Otherwise joggers & trainers are also relevant here. Because you dress relaxed, behind the scenes or in fact full frontal, you may be earning those wedges of cash working say for a big bank like Goldman Sachs or for a Hedge Fund thereby accounting for, literally, a big spend on pictures.

Long gone are the days when the sharp suit was a denominator of social status and stature within society. In fact judging by the UK’s biggest suits seller, Marks and Spencer, there’s a big downward trend in this historic garb.

This retailer’s recently announced it no longer sells men’s suits at more than half of its 254 bigger stores as the pandemic hit ‘fast forward’ on the trend for casual wear. Suit sales fell dramatically due to home working & people spending more time indoors. By contrast it said ‘shorts and jogger sales were up.’

It’s perhaps unsurprising that the loungewear and casualwear categories have skyrocketed in popularity. It’s not only M & S which was quick to adjust to changing clothing trends. Boohoo which also owns Coast & Karen Millen, has launched its own range of loungewear and their profits jumped by 44%. Year on year during March and April the demand for this clothing category surged by nearly 50 per cent. That’s according to a survey of eleven UK retailers across the UK data firm Epsilon-Conversant. Similarly demand for tops & t-shirts increased by 13 per cent while demand for kidswear was up 11 per cent.

Having said that if you’re videoconferencing there’s an expectation that your top half anyway will look smart. Interestingly women’s suit sales haven’t fared as badly as men’s.

Since the easing of Covid restrictions with weddings now being allowed to take place, the purchase of personalised gifts alongside what M&S called Smartwear is on the increase. Their Menswear Trading Director Wesley Taylor says “Our Smartwear is now more focused on smart separates - easy to wear, stylish smart clothing that can be worn in lots of different ways.”

One big factor about the return to the office is weight gain. According to Public Health England adults in England put on an average of half a stone during lockdown and now suitmakers are once more busy having to make adjustments. Cad & The Dandy in Savile Row have recently experienced a 30 per cent increase in one week alone. With the return to the office, co-founder James Sleater says ‘some have lost weight because of their fitness regimes. Others like me, took the opportunity to drink too much red wine.” Meanwhile Nick Wheeler, the founder of shirtmakers Charles Tyrwhitt comments ‘People have said the suit is dead but our experience is that people are spending more on suits after saving in lockdown.’

So suitsales may be rebounding for city slickers but loungewear is here to stay. If you’re heading to the office one viable alternative to a fitted suit is the personalised workwear jacket. It’s hardly loungewear but gives you a comfortable alternative to the fitted jacket - literally giving you room to breath and keeping the boss happy displaying a smart company logo.

author thumbnail

Cathy Sayers

Content Editor

As a former ITV Features Editor Cathy is used to coming up with ideas on all manner of subjects and making them viewer friendly! She divides her time between all things TShirt Studio and making films for production company visiononcomms.com

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