Sir Paul Smith: how I dress

Esquire (UK) - - Esquire Townhouse with Dior -

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

Alex Bilmes

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