Fashion industry expert and designer RUTH FARRELL is the award-winning owner of Meltham based Hope Bespoke millinery. Here she thinks about the impact of the pandemic and asks: ‘Has the men’s suit been consigned to the wardrobe for all but special occasions?’
I started thinking the other day – as I once again pulled out a pair of joggers and a sweatshirt – about the impact Covid-19 has had on what we wear.
There’s no doubt I have had the opportunity and preference to wear casual attire more than I ever have.
This made me wonder about formalwear and then suiting and that led me to men’s tailoring in particular.
Huddersfield’s prosperity was founded on textiles. We live in an area steeped in history surrounding wool and fine worsted cloth, full of heritage companies. In fact, Huddersfield’s connection to wool goes back hundreds of years.
Our ancestors realised that the Pennine landscape was ideal for sheep and the convergence of the Colne and Holme rivers provided soft water perfect for washing wool.
There are local mills covering every aspect of the process from raw material to a finished suit – carding, spinning, weaving, dyeing, finishing and tailoring. It’s no wonder that Huddersfield’s suiting is still respected throughout the world, and often chosen by royalty.
So you see this is no flippant question. In these strange times we live in we have seldom done business face to face.
The majority of those who haven’t been furloughed have worked from home and quickly adapted; holding meetings via Zoom and Skype.
There has been no need to dress smartly when not leaving the house. We have all seen the comedy sketches and adverts of employees sat at their computer screen seemingly dressed up, only to reveal shorts and slippers as they’ve got up.
We in the creative sector are used to a more relaxed dress code, the emphasis being more on how stylish you look than how formal. However, in traditional offices suits have always been paramount.
During Covid-19 on the rare occasion that I myself have attended a business meeting in such an environment, I have been surprised to see that even the ardent suit and tie wearer has come dressed down.
Furthermore, now that companies have faced the challenge of their staff working remotely, and many realising it’s still productive with lower overheads. Statistics predict that many city offices will close down, my husband’s been one of them. Meaning less situations to wear a suit.
Of course, there are other circumstances when a suit is de rigour such as weddings and formal dinners, but these have not been permitted during the pandemic.
The latter will, of course, return bringing with it the opportunity or necessity to dress up. My question is will people want to? After all they’ve spent over a year not needing to and gotten used to the comfort and freedom of not doing so.
I’ve got mixed emotions. At times I am joyful of the prospect of a lunch date where I can wear a dress and heels, an opportunity to dress up. Only to quickly revert back to my loungewear on returning home. As someone for whom wearing dress almost every day was second nature I now see doing so as making an effort.
I therefore see that we won’t come out of this pandemic unchanged and I doubt we will ever completely go back to how things used to be.
In future I believe that the following will emerge; there will still be the traditionalists for whom wearing a suit is important so too the man who sees it has his signature style, as making a statement. For some it will be a welcome change to quit the casualwear and revert to dressing smartly.
Then there will be the new normal; a majority of people that will adapt the suit by breaking it down and mixing it up to suit their mood. Perhaps only the trousers with a more casual top or the jacket or waistcoat and shirt with jeans.
I predict that The American sports jacket look will start to creep into our lives, the well-cut jacket being the ample nod to formal on such an occasion that dressing smart is necessary.
Furthermore, during lockdown we’ve all had time to reflect, and consider the environment and our own carbon foot print. Slow fashion and sustainability becoming commonplace. This and the future state will bring two positive outcomes.
The hired suit/sports jacket will become increasingly popular and buying a well-fitted quality suit a preferred choice.
To clarify; now that there are less occasions to wear a formal suit, to some men, owning one might not be necessary or seem as important.
They may choose to now spend their money on other things or decide that this is now the ideal time for them to do their bit for the planet. In which case they will hire a suit or jacket when needed.
Others will see this as the perfect time to buy less and now be able or choose to invest in one or two premium pieces including made to measure whilst supporting local business.
This will be reflected throughout the world; therefore, our local quality and expertise will be even more sought after.
To conclude, this is not the end of the men’s suit, however it will not be seen or worn as often for quite some time. When it is, it will be a considered purchase/hire worn in a considered way.
Unlike the Luddites of Yorkshire who at the onset of the industrial revolution resisted change, these are golden opportunities for our existing fine companies to tap into if they choose to adapt and embrace them and prospects for new business in suit hire.
They have the chance to promote their craft and valued product offer to a new audience whilst still attracting previous clients.
The journey may not have been a preferred one but it’s pivotal to a positive outcome. We have a world where conscious purchases, values and choices have been forced to the fore. This makes it the perfect place for forward thinking, responsible companies of excellence to thrive and succeed.
For more about Ruth, visit https://www.hopebespoke.com/