Formal attire at work was already under threat, with a loosening of attitudes towards deportment in the workplace and initiatives such as causal Friday. But has the pandemic now killed off the suit for good?
It’s a question that employers and employees alike are grappling with: To what extent has COVID-19 and the push towards WFH finally ended corporate dress codes?
Bucking the trend on this, Chris Wilson, general manager of menswear store David Jones, is predicting an eventual return to more classy attire when on the job.
“At the start the pandemic, we were all riding the high of sweat shirts and hoodies but at a point in time we will come out of it. Whether it’s three months or six months, there will be an explosion of people wanting to dress and get out,” Wilson told The Age newspaper.
Matthew Keighran, managing director for luxury brand Hugo Boss Asia-Pacific, concurs.
“I don't believe suiting is dead. The traditional, corporate guy isn’t wearing very formal things anymore to work but a mix-and-match approach,” he said.
Keighran added that in some ways, the changes in men's suiting echo the way women’s suits have loosened and relaxed.
“Men are always a couple of seasons behind. So perhaps the suit isn't dead, maybe it's just having an identity crisis,” quipped Keighran.
Ties, however, are definitely on the way out. From business meetings to event attendance, the wearing of ties is no longer de rigueur.
And though the so-called power suit image of the 1980s may be dead (refer to Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street), there is still evidence of a psychological impact on the wearer, University of Technology Sydney fashion historian, Professor Toby Slade told the newspaper.
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Slade believes that suits are symbols of “embodied cognition”, the idea that if you look the part, you are the part. He explained that the reason people leaders often prefer suits (Richard Branson is a notable exception) is not just because it's an efficient way to dress.
“People in politics and law wear suits because it immediately establishes you as trustworthy,” he added.
Image courtesy of The Age