Sir Paul Smith: how I dress
Arguably the most influential British fashion designer of his generation, Smith has taught legions of men how to dress. Reflecting on his 50-year career, he explained how dress codes have changed over that time, and why he still wears a suit almost every day
i’m very at ease with wearing a suit because I love notebooks and pens and keys and phones, so pockets are very practical.
i’m wearing my suit quite conventionally today, but often I’ll wear it with trainers or some colourful socks, or a T-shirt. I think you can wear a suit in a very different way now.
it was in the late Seventies or early Eighties when Mr Armani, and then me in my very modest way (not nearly as importantly), sort of reinvented the suit. A lot of that was helped by my training from my wife Pauline, and my teacher because we put a very short canvas in, we put in a soft shoulder, we relaxed the suit, when previously it was very structured and solid.
and then we both, independently, noticed that people were wearing denim and looser things. The suit of mine that’s in the V&A — with tennis shoes and a white T-shirt — was, I think, from 1982. So, it’s just a matter of working out how to soften it up, how to loosen it up.
dress codes are changing on the hour, more or less — with dress-down Friday, or whatever it is. People are dressing a lot more casually now. I have no qualms, it’s just quite nice dressing up.
people often say to me,
“Do clothes do a job?”, or “Is it art?” I say, “Well, I don’t think it’s art.” But, if you were to go onto a flight at Heathrow going to New York, and the pilot said, “Yo!” with a baseball hat, shorts and trainers on, you might go, “I’m not sure that I really want you to fly me to New York.” But because he’s in a smart suit and he’s got little stripes, you suddenly think, “He’s all right.” So I do think it does a job.
Now 71, Sir Paul was on typically lively form in conversation with Esquire’s