Suit­able Dis­rup­tion

As the tra­di­tional busi­ness suit comes un­der threat, men are learn­ing that there are more di­rec­tions to cor­po­rate dress­ing than just up or down. By Yong Wei Jian

Men's Folio (Singapore) - - Contents -

As the tra­di­tional busi­ness suit comes un­der threat, there are more di­rec­tions to cor­po­rate dress­ing than just up or down

In the sea­son finale of Bil­lions, hedge fund king Bobby “Axe” Ax­el­rod had to pound the streets to win back for­mer clients, fail­ing mis­er­ably. It wasn’t un­til he ditched the de­signer suit and tie in favour of his reg­u­lar busi­ness at­tire – hoodie, T-shirt, and jeans – that he re­gained his mojo and started speechi­fy­ing for the win. Dressed down ( in high ca­sual), he looked in con­trol and ready to lead, and not just an­other guy in a suit beg­ging for money. Quite the turn- on- head on Mark Twain’s “clothes make the man” adage.

The in­ten­tion of a well- dressed work­place is to fos­ter an im­age of pro­fes­sional suc­cess, and for the long­est time, the busi­ness suit em­bod­ied that con­fi­dence. Axe even said be­fore his at­tire change (as if to con­vince him­self ): “Do you know why we wear ties? To sig­nify se­ri­ous­ness of pur­pose. Ours is not to ques­tion why, but to do.” But cloth­ing as a sym­bol of (self-)ex­pres­sion has evolved with the times. Ex­pen­sive suits no longer de­note busi­ness suc­cess. Of­fice at­tire no longer dis­tin­guish man­age­ment from work­ers. Sil­i­con Val­ley’s “tribal uni­forms” dis­placed the mo­not­o­nous con­form­ity of the work­place to cre­ate a more het­ero­ge­neous look. Vir­gin Group founder, Sir Richard Bran­son, notes that Twain was ad­dress­ing the 19th cen­tury when dress­ing proper was im­por­tant, whereas in many busi­ness set­tings today, a clean pair of jeans, wrin­kle-free shirt, and pair of sneak­ers fit right in. So how did the busi­ness power suit lose its, well, power?

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