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
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?