BSG Bites 1: The Death of the Suit

Thoughts of a professional, once working in a busy city centre to now working from home.

Wake up, check the time, grab some breakfast, freshen up. Get ready for work. Open the wardrobe and reach for the Suit. Navy? Pinstripe? Three piece? Something other than a Suit? (no, never that.) Slowly reach out for the one that fits best, pull out that crisp ironed shirt. Check to see the tie matches the shirt. Some say the tie should be darker than the shirt, some say don’t mix stripes and patterns – make your own style. If the shirt allows, find the perfect cufflinks – kudos if it matches the tie or the shirt. Now we are ready to leave and take on the day. Wait, something is missing. The icing on the cake, the final amendment. The pocket square – neatly styled and curved to fit your pocket. Let’s go – let’s do this.

For many this sequence (or parts of it) no longer exists with working from home. The lockdowns have removed formal office attire and etiquette which for many people was part of their daily routine and even their identity. The Suit was more than something just worn to work. It was a symbol of professionalism. It was a part of a person which showed that they cared and that they made an effort for their clients and colleagues. Seeing someone or meeting someone for the first time in a Suit compared to jeans and a hoody made such a difference in the way we perceived them (rightly or wrongly). The Suit was the advanced version of the school uniform or blazer which was grown up, elegant and cool. The modern Suit was not just your normal black or blue garment anymore, it was striped, it was patterned, it had different colours , the lining was different, it had pockets, you could store everything you might need. The Suit was iconic and it was a huge market for retailers, which we all hope will recover and come back soon.

2020. Two months in and the words Covid, lockdown and PPE were everywhere and the Suit slowly disappeared. Gone. No more meetings, seeing colleagues, networking events, meeting clients for the first time – all gone. The Suit was cast aside and replaced with comfy and convenient. Sharp and stylish went to screen and setup. The new world of working completely left the Suit firmly locked away in the dark. But it’s not all doom and gloom. We found that we actually saved a fair amount of time by spending more time prepping for meetings and calls rather than adjusting our ties and jackets. We’ve saved a ton of money on the office attire and feel more like ourselves when we are in our own environment and wearing what works for us. The Suit often created an us and them – but now we are all the same. We are casual, we are comfortable and we are making the best out of a far from ideal situation.

Suit – we miss you and hope to have you back in our lives again. You are not just what we wore to work. You are offices, you are city centres, you are busy shops, you are retailers. You are a thriving community, the buzz around town. We will see you again.

By Baljinder Singh Atwal, Chair of the Birmingham Solicitors’ Group