New York
Hong Kong

Is it time to retire the suit?

August 2022

This feels like an odd point to start with, but I’ve never really been a fan of smart attire. I can still remember the excitement of ‘home clothes day’ at primary school and feeling like I could run faster, jump higher and generally have that little bit more fun without the constraints of my uniform.

It seemed odd to me that adults could choose any ‘threads’ they wanted yet decided to spend a fair amount of their time in uncomfortable trousers, jackets, button up shirts and shoes that you couldn’t play football in. That’s before we even get to the tie!  A slice of material with no purpose other than to reduce the blood flow to your head and repeatedly get covered in your lunch.

No thanks – shorts, t-shirt and trainers made way more sense to me.

Then I got older and by some miracle landed a job with a respectable employer in the City. I recall my first day – getting off the tube at Blackfriars and making the short walk to my office behind a guy a few years older in a pinstripe suit so sharp that I could have cut myself on it. He looked seriously cool, and it turned out we would be colleagues. Yes, I was inspired and could get behind the idea of a suit as it would surely rubber stamp my becoming a grown-up. Don’t get me wrong, I was still uncomfortable, but it was the dress code. I am not one to break the rules, and as I felt out of my depth anyway it made sense to at least look the part.

That was the norm for many years, but as I became more competent and less in need of my stabilisers, I found myself feeling less like towing the line. Steve Jobs seemed to do OK wearing a white t-shirt and trainers and Axe from Billions seemed to be permanently wearing a hoodie whilst printing money on the side.

Additionally, as a recruiter I’m not sure it’s a great look to be in a suit. We regularly meet new candidates out and about (admittedly, not as regularly post-pandemic and the realisation that Zoom works well enough), and the nature of these meetings is that no one wants to look like they are meeting a recruiter. Suit, tie, shiny shoes, and a note pad is a giveaway. If I was meeting in casual clothes I would instead look like a mate, or as I age, perhaps a cool uncle instead?

Meeting clients is where things get tricky. Seeing a new partner who I must impress makes me feel that I need to be as polished as possible. Having said that, times have changed and seeing a tie anywhere in the City seems as rare as spotting The Yeti. I know that I can look perfectly good in regular trousers and a jumper with some smart trainers. My boss might correctly say that I look like a bald Jamie Redknapp on Sky Sports but maybe it’s just my alternative branding.

I want to be judged on my actions instead of my appearance. I can look smart without a suit and if I feel better then I’m convinced that I will work better.

One thing I do miss is the expression of shock and accompanying comments from my kids when they see me looking smart. That never fails to make me laugh.

I’m keen to hear what everyone else thinks, so let me know in the comments and if you would like a chat about your career and how to maximise it, then I would be delighted to assist. +44 7779 781 810

BBC News