A Return to the Office, Part I: Following Suit
After a long, strange year-and-a-half, many of us are preparing to return to our offices for the first time since March 2020. And while we can reasonably expect our desks and Keurig machines to be right where we left them, a key concern is shrouded by uncertainty: what we’ll be wearing.
Over the course of Covid-19, the professional male dress code experienced its greatest upheaval since the “Casual Friday” revolution that swept offices in the 1990’s. The long march to casualization, which began decades ago by exchanging suit and tie for open-collared shirts and chinos, reached its apex as we attended endless Zoom meetings from our sofas in sweats and ball caps.
In that moment, it felt as if the forces of comfort and convenience had at last triumphed over the two-piece suit, consigning it to the same ash heap of history where powdered wigs and frock coats lay, forgotten and unmourned.
However, it’s worth remembering that we didn’t discard our professional attire out of some organic sea change in the population’s thinking, but out of necessity following an unprecedented global pandemic. And now that the pandemic has begun to recede, we can take stock of how we felt about a year in hooded sweatshirts and elastic-waistband pants.
As the proprietors of a bespoke tailoring house on Savile Row, we’re a bit biased on the subject. But we think we speak for many when we say we’re ready to put the last 17 months behind us and get reacquainted with the suit as office life, social occasions, theater and more come humming back to life.
If you work in one of the professions that still requires a suit and tie to be worn, such as banking or law, you might already be thinking of how to get back in the sartorial saddle. To which we reply: don’t sweat it. The true beauty of the suit is how little it changes over time. If you want proof, look at photos of the Duke of Windsor as a young man: the two-piece suits worn by the one-time king a century ago would scarcely look out of place today.
Which is to say, the suit that’s been hanging in the back of your closet since March 2020 hasn’t fallen out of style since its last wear. However, it might not fit you the way it once had, and you wouldn’t want your grand reunion with suiting to be marred by a fit that’s uncomfortably small or large. In that case, it’s an excellent opportunity to rebuild your wardrobe with one of the classics—say, a navy fresco or grey flannel.
Or perhaps your old kit fits you just fine (to which we say, bravo) but you’re enthusiastic about making a fresh impression when you’re again shaking hands or picking up the lunch tab. This is a chance to confidently stride back into suiting with something subtly patterned like a faint windowpane or pinstripe, or a solid with an interesting texture such as birdseye or nailhead.
And naturally, we’ll be the first to answer any of your questions about striding back into suiting, whether your wardrobe is going through a “rebuild” phase or if you’re looking to do something fresh and new when it comes to the work wardrobe. And next week, we’ll be taking a look at how those working in slightly more casual environs might strategize building out their back-to-office kit.