We will not all be wearing T-shirts and sweatpants
Apparently there is a thing called a Zoom shirt.
It sits on the back of your chair at home, and just before you start a meeting with your boss or colleague, you put on the shirt to look professional. You know, over a T-shirt and sweatpants*.
There has been much hand-wringing in recent weeks over what Covid-19 will mean for menswear, and for tailoring in particular. With increased working from home - the thinking goes - why would anyone wear anything other than the aforementioned T-shirt and sweatpants ever again?
I think this is liable to exaggeration. It is a mainstream news story, not a classic menswear one. The majority of the population already dress as if they don’t care what they look like. Working from home more will make them dress a little bit worse: but that’s not much of a loss.
I think those that care about their clothes will continue to care. The clothes will change, but they will still want to buy quality, to look put-together, and to enjoy what they’re wearing.
If it were true that not working in an office made you dress badly, then every stay-at-home parent would look terrible.
But the parents I know don’t - particularly the women. They still want good clothes, they’re just not a suit and heels. They still want to look good when they go to a cafe, to meet other parents. And they get particular enjoyment from dressing up for any evening event.
In fact, if anything has happened in menswear in the past 20 years, it might be making middle-aged men like those middle-aged women, and getting them interested in what they put on. Making it acceptable, and interesting, and (that word again) enjoyable.
Also, if office life were essential to dressing well, every retired person would dress like a slob.
Yet I know there are many retired readers of Permanent Style (I’ve never asked, or surveyed, but it’s clear from many comments and conversations) who care about their clothes. Indeed, often older men take a greater interest, now they don’t have to dress in one particular way for work.
In the past I’ve likened clothes to food - as parts of life that can be similarly rich and enjoyable to understand - and I think the comparison is useful here as well.
I have several friends who are foodies, and have sorely missed restaurants being closed. But they’ve responded by cooking more at home, by visiting more local shops and markets. Their interest didn’t fade, it just found a different outlet.
Getting dressed is a form of personal expression, and a way of telling yourself how you feel about what you’re doing.
Readers made this point on the PS article back in March, ‘What I wear working from home’.
And more recently, reader Paul contributed a very personal comment: “As a relatively new reader of PS, I have to admit that I’ve historically not been a great fan of clothing in the PS sense, and in fact I’ve spent most of the last two decades in ‘scruff order’ – working for a media company with a very casual dress code, then working from home for the last 10 years.
“I discovered PS around the time that this look started to feel “not me” any more (possibly to do with getting older) and, while I may never invest in a bespoke suit, I have certainly sharpened up my act a bit. Ironically, and contrary to your point about resorting to T-shirts and sweatpants to work from home, since the COVID lockdown I’ve made a conscious effort *not* to ‘shlomp into scruff order’, and have been making sure to get up and dress.
“Sticking to something a bit sharper, in terms of clothing, has made a significant difference to how I’m coping with the current situation – my partner has been shielding due to health issues, so I’ve effectively been in lockdown since late February; feeling ‘put together’ for work has had a major elevating effect on my mental state. And I’m definitely keen to continue and to ‘up the game’ further as time goes on, even with the current uncertainty, because of how the change in dress makes me feel.”
People discover this every day; and realise they’re too old for scruffy teenage clothes too, every day.
There are, of course, many caveats to this optimism.
Some men - even the most dedicated - will make less of an effort sometimes. The economy will prevent some from pursuing their interest in clothes, even if they wanted to. And most brands can’t survive on menswear enthusiasts: they need some slice of the mainstream population as well.
But working from home is not the death knell for good clothes. Like Kindles and books, its impact will largely be on those that didn’t care much about clothes anyway.
Indeed, again like Kindles, it might remind some people what they valued about clothes in the first place. Most people I know that like books have not stopped buying books.
It does seem certain, though, that the Covid-19 pandemic will accelerate the trend towards casual clothing.
Suits will become that little bit rarer, even if just because they’re worn on the two days a week you go into the office, rather on five.
But even here, I think there are silver linings. I’ve settled into going into town two or three days a week, recently, and I actively look forward to those days when I do, and wear tailoring. It becomes another opportunity for expression, as well as an expression of purpose.
In the end, reasons to dress up and look better will not go away. Whether it’s to elevate how you feel - like Paul - or to meet friends. Those will require smarter, nicer clothes.
Those of us that enjoy clothing will enjoy doing it. Those that don’t, won’t.
*I apologise for having to use the word ‘sweatpants’. Unfortunately the Americanism has almost entirely replaced the English term, ‘tracksuit bottoms’ - as sneakers have replaced trainers.
I apologise both for the American takeover, and because ‘sweatpants’ must be one of the most unattractive words in the English language - particularly given that ‘pants’ in English refers to underpants, not trousers.
All spot on I think and positive.
Isn’t it very appropriate though that “sweatpants” is one of the most unattractive words? After all they are one of the most unattractive garments…
Dear Simon. I strive to be as elegant and sophisticated as you, and to live and dress true to the PS ethos. Wearing clothes nicely brings a sense of wellbeing and security. Knowing that you have made an effort is self assuring. And being a bit of a rebel when it comes to it; leaving one shirt cuff unbuttoned, making the tie knot look a bit wonky, having the laces on one shoe undone. All these mark one out as an individual which is really the key to self confidence. Thank you.
Hi Sebastian, wearing nice clothes today is an act of rebellion. It marks you out as a rebel like sporting a pair of Levi’s would have done in the 1950s.
Hi Sebastian, I have to disagree, for the minor sloppiness you mention (euphemised as “sprezzatura”) is as encoded and restricted as canonical smart dress. So, tie awry or laces undone count as sprezz, while soup stains or frayed cuffs don’t, though equally “careless.” The language of sartorial sprezzatura is as individual, as rebellious, as are dropped final g or using w in place of r in the speech of Bertie Wooster.
Leaving the laces on your shoes undone really has nothing to do with elegance nor sophistication I’m afraid but good that you’ve found a form of therapy!
Sprezzatura gone too far:
5. Laces left undone on one shoe.
4. Two different colored socks
3. Panama hat “accidentally” worn backwards
2. “Forgetting” to shave half of one’s face.
1. Trouser fly casually left open and shirt bottom pulled out through opening.
Hahaha! Well said, doctor!
ha ha that´s good. The undone button-down collars, undone monk straps etc… trying that hard at “looking not trying hard” strikes me as sad. Probably because rebellion should be original, not copied. But maybe you are on to something with the different colored socks.
Got to say in my opinion sprezzatura is an attitude, such attitude that is based on a very deep understanding of oneself and style, which hardly anyone nowadays has achieved it, the ones who matered it will never mention that too…sadly most of those ‘accidents’ we see, especially on Pitti, are too obvious and intentional, it’s really not cool to trying too hard for ppl to spot them.
Eschewing Americanisms isn’t something you should feel can’t be done as you’re British and therefore don’t need to defer to referencing them, even if they’re popular, in my opinion…
Furthermore, no-one I know personally uses ‘sneakers’ instead of trainers, nor ‘sweatpants’ – I’ve heard ‘jogging bottoms’ as a variation of ‘tracksuit bottoms’ but that’s about it!
I was thinking the same thing – I don’t know anyone who says sneakers or sweatpants either. I think perhaps this might be a London thing, as London appears to more closely follow Americanisms than elsewhere. Perhaps due to its more cosmopolitan demographic?
I should say it’s more about the term taking over in an international media (websites, social media, e-commerce), rather than in day-to-day use in England. Though you do certainly hear more of it in London
Just want to throw in that as a Canadian, I understand sweatpants (or jogging pants) to be something different than tracksuit pants. Both hideous sartorially, so both make the point equivalently, but not the same item of clothing.
What is the difference there, C? Difference between jogging and track?
The difference, in my opinion, is a matter of construction and materials. Google track suit. Google sweat pants.. The difference used to be a bit more pronounced… Marketing and “search terms”, would seem to have merged the two terms. Track suits “were” more of a thing you would see a pro-athlete wearing to and from a meet.. Sweat pants, “were” the grey cotton things..
I think that “sweatpants” refers to that type of athletic(ish) bottom with an elastic hem while “tracksuit” pants have the usual type of trouser hem and are part of a “tracksuit”.
I also see “joggers” being used as another name for sweatpants. Although they tend to have a slimmer fit and the elastic at the hem is a wider band.
Jogging pants (sweat pants) – Made of a relatively thick (< 5mm) cotton material with a fleeced finish on the inside. Quite good for keeping one warm, which is their intention–staying warm while running in the cold. Often quite baggy, and usually comes in neutral colours (greys and blacks).
Track suit pants – Typically polyester and thin (~ 1 mm). Often styled with brighter colours or three stripes down the side. Not so warm, but good again wind chill, and slightly water resistant. Athletes will often wear these as an outer layer to protect from the weather, and shed them shortly before they begin their competition.
In my mind, the distinction is simpler: sweatpants are made of the same sort of material as sweatshirts. But agreed that in the UK we’d still more likely call them jogging bottoms or tracksuit bottoms. During lockdown there was a meme doing the rounds about how in the evening people were changing from their daytime pyjamas to their night-time pyjamas. Which is telling …
It comes from hanging around/being in discourse with with US, HK, Japanese and Swedish iGent (as the old term was) types on social media (and potentially Shoreditch hipsters influenced by those same people).
In 20 years of University and then work living in south, west, central and now north London has any British person (or European who didn’t go to ‘international‘ school) ever said sneakers. But hence my shoreditch carve out – never lived east!
Only Brits say trainers. The term sneakers on the other hand is very widespread and commonly used by everyone outside the UK when speaking english and referring to athletic shoes. As a matter of fact the term is so prevalent that it basically replaced the indigenous german and french words.
Here in AUS we’ve called them runners since the 70s
Isn´t sweatpants usually made in cotton. And track suits usually made in polyester (to transport perspiration).
FWIW I believe this is on the right track. Sweatpants are usually of an airy/thickish weave (often synthetic, not always cotton) often with a smooth faux shearling-like lining. Tracksuit bottoms are synthetic and much thinner (often a bit shiny), with no difference in finish between outside and inside. Visually, they look exactly like the name says – bottoms that look lost without the tracksuit top. Sweatpants don’t have a matching top. Usually, tracksuit bottoms are “adorned” with a logo whereas sweatpants are often free of any logo.
I’d wear neither but I’d rate tracksuit bottoms quite a bit worse not least because they are usually little more than free advertising for a sports brand.
I have never worked at an office in my life. I am self-employed, and by nature of my work, sometimes I have to dress up, sometimes I have to travel, and sometimes I stay home for long periods of time. This means that I am, perhaps, a bit more used to spending a lot of time in my room than most people, and this year’s lockdown was less of a stress to me than many people. So, I was a bit surprised when I started hearing and reading everywhere how everyone is now wearing “sweatpants” and nothing else. Because, I have never worn these, co-called sweatpants, or gym shorts, or pajama pants to walk around my house. Honestly, I don’t even own a pair of sweatpants. I don’t see how wearing chinos, or corduroys, or cotton or linen shorts (in warmer months) is any less comfortable than wearing “sweatpants”. Or how wearing a polo shirt is any less comfortable than wearing a t-shirt.
In any case, people won’t be working from home for much longer, and the virus won’t be around for much longer. Life will get back to normal in around six months or so. Those who’ve always dressed poorly will keep dressing poorly, and those who’ve always dressed nicely will continue dressing nicely.
I don’t know either. It’s as if repeating a million times in every place in the internet “TRACKSUIT COMFORTABLE” would make everything else uncomfortable. Does anybody here lack comfort when wearing tailored trousers ? Me neither – they are usually made in pleasant fabrics and in a non-constricting cut. But so many men would say “I’d rather dress for comfort”, as if it was an one-or-the-other choice – either good looking or horribly uncomfortable tailoring, or the trusted and comfortable sweatpants, either do everything to look sharp or absolutely nothing at all. I’d blame the cheap polyester suits our parents bought and forced us to wear for formal occasions when we were teenagers. No wonder so many people don’t want to repeat the experience. The problem would be solved, if they bought better clothes made from natural materials, but why would they pay more? For them suit means uncomfortable – it always did. And it is tough to convince them to spend when there are many fashion brands that sell H&M quality for a hundred times the price. Perhaps that is why so many people choose not to bother.
For me the issue isn’t that nice clothes are uncomfortable, it’s that I am much more paranoid about getting them dirty or stained. This includes suede shoes. Maybe I need to get over that. I have not been dressing as well since shifting to working at home. I do notice, in a big way, that I feel better when I wear my nicer clothes. I love shoes, and I miss choosing the days pair and wearing them.
I think it’s worth trying to get over it Jeff, yes, and learning how to look after things well. There’s a whole school – around Ivy, around English country house style – that is about things looking worn and well used. But clearly good quality for the way they have dealt with that ageing.
And “trackie bums” would be lost on an international readership?
I suspect so, unfortunately
I think “tracky dacks” would work outside of Australia as well.
I am not British so possibly missing something but “trackie bums” is the most unfortunate combination of letters I have read all day today
Beautifully written article and one that needs great acknowledgement .
The following statement alone sums up society not just in terms of clothes but in terms of its decent into low standards and lack of decency.
“The majority of the population already dress as if they don’t care what they look like. Working from home more will make them dress a little bit worse: but that’s not much of a loss.
I think those that care about their clothes will continue to care. The clothes will change, but they will still want to buy quality, to look put-together, and to enjoy what they’re wearing.”
Thankyou for the interesting insight there Simon. I’ve been reading PS for a couple of yrs now and the articles I really enjoy are in reference to the blazer/trouser/tie/shoe combos with regards to style, colours, pattern etc. I’m a Surgeon and I’ve found this a much more comfortable outfit, sometimes sans tie, than a full suit. It also can be converted for those weekend rounds with the same trousers/shirt but just with a valstar on top, which I bought recently after seeing a PS article! I wonder though in years to come if hospitals will start frowning upon us wearing regular clothes and convert to an all scrubs policy. I hope this doesn’t happen as I find a blazer and shirt respectful and professional, especially when consulting an older demographic. Also, they’re called ‘trackies’ down under, Aussie slag from our English forebears!
Or indeed – trackiedaks – another Australianism
For unattractive words in the English language, I’ll see your ‘sweatpants’ and raise you ‘slacks’, a word that makes me wince every time I hear it or see it in print!
Don’t apologise simply use English terms
On a semi-related note Simon, do you put as much effort into choosing pyjamas and dressing gowns as daywear? I have recently tried to improve my nightwear, having previously been a boxers and t shirt man. Will there ever be a blog post on the subject? (!)
Sure, happy to do something. And yes, of course!
As an American please don’t let our imperialistic butchering of English stop you from using proper English terms.
I’m sitting at home wearing white jeans, deck shoes, and an RL Polo, and almost feel as if I’m about to leave to watch a yacht race or a tennis match. Alas I’m not, but that’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed about still dressing properly while working from home. A bit of sartorial voyeurism.
A well-written, well-argued and balanced article.
Where I think this period may have a lasting impact is that many men fall between the “don’t care about clothes, at all” category and the “likes to dress well” one and simply dress entirely mimetically (i.e., they imitate whatever they observe, in order to fit in).
For that large group, I think that the current unpleasantness may have accelerated the drift away from formality and aesthetics.
I am a little concerned (maybe that’s too strong a word) that there will be that many more men who, before putting on a jacket or a tie or a pair of tailored trousers will think “I can’t manage that (degree of differentiation)” in the same way that they might, five-ten years ago thought they couldn’t rock a felt hat or a DJ, etc.
i agree, people who are into clothing will continue to practice their interest albeit in a different genre. more working from home definitely means a significant impact on the tailoring industry. i havent worn a suit in 6 months and I miss it. at home, i cannot get myself to wear any thing but elasticated trousers and no-iron tops. i have bought myself a few really nice knitted tees, polo tops and linen/cotton drawstring trousers. i genuinely dont know if/when im ever going to wear any of my ties again.
Simon, I find that these past few months have increased my convicition of dressing well to work, once that starts getting back to work, which for me means a suit and tie. But also, having spent all this time at home, and indeed sometimes been known to wear more leisurely wear, I have now started to look at other alternatives for “home wear”, such as the Lounge shirt and new series of casual trousers by Stoffa. Clothing that can be worn at home and makes good for walking out around town as well. Me and the wife are also having a baby now, and I would like the child to grow up with dad being dressed well at home as well. To set a good example so to speak.
I’m sticking with tracky bottoms and trainers and will insist anything else is just incorrect. 🙂
I keep it simple: some people love to dress up, some don’t. It’s not about lockdown, smart working or whatever, some will always put an effort to look good, no matter what. I try and I do it mostly for myself. But I must be honest here: a suit ( or a sport coat) will always give me some boost in many different fields. Who says it doesn’t usually always wears sweat pants and sneakers.
Until last month I had not bought a tie for 10 years nor worn one for 6 years. In the last month I have purchased 3. None for work, I just fancied smartening myself up for me!
These things all come around, we all react and counteract, don’t we?
The tie is likely to circle in ever diminishing circles, but that doesn’t mean it won’t come round again.
Gentlemen, whether one calls them sweatpants or tracksuit bottoms, I submit for your consideration that this garment is a sartorial disaster and should only be worn for exercise purposes. Seeing grown men out in public wearing this hideous garment is an unpleasant sight indeed.
Would be really interested to hear your views on where the trajectory of casualisation brings us. Jeans used to be the ultimate casual item in a guy’s wardrobe but now even they seem to be under attack for environmental reasons and there have been reports of sales dipping, athleisure seems to be a real thing now, but I just don’t see where we go from here, what can be more casual than sportswear? I firmly realise that mass trends aren’t (thankfully) the focus of this site but we don’t live in a vacuum and would love to hear what you think.
Briefly, I would say there’s nothing necessarily wrong with jeans. Just don’t get pre-washed ones where so much needless water is used to make them look lived in. Buy a pair raw, or just once washed, and wear them in yourself. They will likely have a longer lifespan than any other pair of trousers, and in that way be great for the environment. Just don’t buy any more.
As to casualisation, there’s obviously a limit when you can’t make clothes any sloppier or looser. I think with sweatpants or shorts we’ve reached that point.
“I apologise both for the American takeover, and because ‘sweatpants’ must be one of the most unattractive words in the English language – particularly given that ‘pants’ in English refers to underpants, not trousers.”
You mean “apologize.” Kidding….lol
Nobody I know says ‘sneakers’ and It would be jarring to hear the term in England.
Excellent article that sums up the situation nicely.
I would also endorse JJ Katz’s sentiment that things may polarise further.
My big fear in all of this is that good people with good brands may go out of business. Historically menswear has never been awash with cash and there will be casualties from the veritable economic tsunami that we are facing. I just hope my favourites won’t be affected.
Personally I intend to flaneur along until the end of my days and have no desire to dress like ‘Bob The Builder’.
I do here protest that Mr. Sweatpants has been much too vilified for his association with the slovenly. Surely, in selecting a pair, the same discernment can be applied as to selecting any article of clothing. Equally gauche is the man who’s stubbornly formal in every context, sneering at the athleisure crowd for “not caring.” The times will pass him by.
Very true, and I actually have a lovely pair of tracksuit bottoms, in loopback cotton. It’s just that I only ever wear them when going somewhere to play sport. Just a question of location and occasion
I like the comment from JJ Katz am a little concerned that I won’t be able to manage the degree of “differentiation” by perhaps still wearing a tie when others aren’t. However, I decide what I eat, listen to, read etc.. I am going to try to dress for myself and hopefully people will respect my choices like I respect theirs. Live and let live people 🙂
As an avid American reader…you know what they say “two great countries seperated by a common language.” So, tracksuit bottoms or sweatpants-whatever.
I enjoy your blog and it has informed many of my purchases. I, sometimes, get the sense by many on that side of the pond they don’t believe we Americans have style or want to dress well. I believe it’s just different we tend to dress in a more prep and simple way and it’s ok to wear shorts in the summer here where 30 c days are normal, but most of us can turn out when needed or in my case wear a suit and tie working from my kitchen table.
Thanks again for the education and inspiration!
Strong points all round! I have two thoughts on the idea of the death knell for suits. Firstly, I find the image of the stock, cheap business suit – shiny, worsted, thin-lapelled and irritatingly ubuiquitous, especially on television – increasingly repugnant and it has permanently altered my perception of the more formal (relatively, these days) end of tailoring. I think the first casualty of the lockdown would have been this kind of suiting. But rather than accelerate a switch to casual clothing, I find this is driving my appreciation for odd jackets, smart separates and “textured” tailoring – casual suiting. I should add that I‘m in my twenties and work for a startup, so there’s a built-in resentment of the archetypal corporate suit there. And that leads my on to my second thought: for tailoring to survive, it needs at least a cult following amongst younger people. And I suspect this necessarily involves less focus on the highest quality and especially the bespoke side of things, at least in the beginning. Brands that can cater for the younger style enthusiast could yet sustain tailoring into the longer term. Berg & Berg, Drakes, Scott Fraser Collection, King & Tuckfield, perhaps even Anglo Italian all spring to my mind as having a modern, youthful and somewhat rebellious approach to permanent style.
Sorry, I meant ‘clothing casualty’, but it was a flippant and insensitive use of the word in this context.
@Jason and @Thomas.
I hope I’ll be able to count you among those resisting “the slide”.
Dress for yourself, I say.
I have a slightly contrasting viewpoint – I would consider myself interested in clothes but I have worn ‘sweatpants’ with t-shirts throughout and have enjoyed it tremendously.
A nice, well-made t-shirt and trim, well-fitting sweatpants – to me at least, regardless of their type, aligns entirely with the PS ethos of finding clothes made well and with care. Loopback cotton sweatpants from Sunspel have been great for me, for example. I’ve been able to transition from work calls, to spending time with my family, to doing things around the house, and feel very comfortable (both physically and mentally) doing so. I’m at home, so I dress like I would at home – to wear a shirt and a jacket would be, for me, entirely incongruous to where I am. Similarly, I would never dream of wearing the same clothes to a bar, club or restaurant – but for what I need at home, they make me happy.
I understand the feelings of those who either need to dress more formally for a working mindset, or as your reader Paul to feel ‘put together’ – but for me, this is what works.
Hopefully this differing viewpoint is helpful.
Keep up the good work.
It is indeed David, thank you. Polite and considered disagreement is always applauded here.
This was a very interesting piece, thanks very much.
I work in the financial industry, and two years ago began investing more in casual jackets, good bespoke coats, and shoes.
I think that the last blue/grey suit I comissioned was 3 years ago, and in this moment have no plans to do it again.
It seems I will be working from home two days a week, going to the office to meet clients.
So, my current formal clothing is more than enough, but I will invest more in casual clothing.
I fully agree that this Covid will not be the end of passion for good clothing, but things will change in this industry and some big names will suffer.
Cheers, and thanks very much again.
Simon, you can ignore my prior post. I should have scrolled down because someone made almost the identical point as me re sweatpants vs tracksuit bottoms.
One equally important strand to my own effort to start the day with purpose, aside from dressing reasonably well, is to enjoy shaving. Not something for you of course, and others with beards, but something maybe to mention. Clearly it’s not on the topic of clothing, but certainly it is on the topic of style.
Harry’s, Dollar Shave Club and others have been great to highlight just how ridiculous the main brand is in its introduction of “innovation” that few men need and that cost a fortune in sheer waste and in money. But the real joy is going one step further than the new entrants and simply using a decent brush, decent soap (the British still produce some of the best) and a traditional safety razor. There are websites devoted to the topic, as yours is to Style, but it may be worth a mention. It is cheaper, it is *far* better for the environment, you get a closer shave (yes, you really do) and it becomes a ritual that turns a tedious chore into something to enjoy every morning. Literally, I feel best ready to dress properly after a decent shave. I’ve been at it for over 6 years, I still enjoy it and I won’t be changing.
Earlier this year before Covid struck, I was already bemoaning the rarity of the tie and suit in the City. But in recent months, I’ve gone from wearing C&J handgrande Oxfords 4 times a week to wearing Asics most days. Out with the flannel trousers and in with the Levis 502s purchased on Amazon for about £40 in mid-March. Virtually every day I wear a tshirt (Sunspel), even on a trip into the office yesterday (the dress code is casual during the pilot one-a-week reopening period).
Is it because I am an innate slob or find these clothes more comfortable than smarter clothes? No. It’s for three reasons: 1) I am spending much more time around by two children under three and don’t want to take the risk of getting finer clothes covered in their food/slobber; 2) I have always felt as if my shirt cuffs, shoe soles and trouser forks fall into disrepair in real time before my eyes, so I figured that spending 3, 4, 5 and now 6 months not wearing them will avoid the time/cost of replacing those items in the near future; and 3) I am a big fan of knitwear, which inherently smartens up most outfits, but it’s just not the time of year to wear any.
But alas, someone has had the last laugh… the moths. When getting ready for a wedding this weekend (first in a while), I noticed some moth larvae had eaten a huge chunk out of one pair of trousers, plus the lapels of a couple of suit jackets (most of which I had failed to store in the suit carriers that Michael Norman returned them in last Autumn). But the question is… should I even bother replacing these suits (and if so, is it worth bothering just yet or waiting until the next wave has passed)?
Before “replacing” them, I would suggest speaking to a quality tailor about a possible repair. Simon has mentioned a few on the blog, and you may be surprised with how good a job they can do of repairs.
Well put – I fully agree.
Totally agree . Looking forward to getting back to teaching (in the classroom and not online) in September so I can wear a beautiful tie, a lovely dress shirt, some smart trousers and a well cut jacket. The tie is not dead…
Thanks for writing this up Simon! I cannot agree more with the “sense of purpose”.
Every workday here in the SF Bay Area, I’ve been putting on my watch, a sensible shirt, trousers (haven’t worn shorts or sweatpants for my workday since we started WFH in March) and even got specific footwear for WFH (bit of a stickler for cleanliness, my work shoes have been outside and I didn’t really want them tracking dirt around the home). Sure changes my mental state and makes me feel more ready to tackle the day.
Great piece Simon and spot on,couldn’t agree more.
Perhaps you should have written a parallel article about Slimfast and identified the real reason why so many men wear the garments that have generated such a lively discussion.
Yesterday, I went to work for the first time after five months of trying to teach Latin mainly via Zoom (terribly difficult considering the desolate state of network coverage in rural parts of Germany). Now I know how much I missed wearing a suit, cuff links, tie, pocket square and black oxfords.
The simple truth about sweatpants or whichever combination of sounds or letters one prefers to misuse in order to designate this sartorial disaster has been expressed once and for all by the late Karl Lagerfeld: “Wer eine Jogginghose trägt, hat die Kontrolle über sein Leben verloren.“ (“A person wearing sweatpants has lost control over his/her live”).
When McDonald’s advertised ” Come as you are “, I could not anticipate that people would take this LITERALLY. This must be the “out -bed-look. But this goes hand in hand with the demise of written English (of which you are a master)
Definitely not the death knell of good clothes. I have an appreciation for classical menswear but I find myself during this period of heat in London enjoying more casual clothing. Maybe this is just a year to remind us of the beautiful simplicity of a loopwheeled tee, selvedge denim and well-made trousers.
Lovely article, Simon. I’ve noticed a lot of men are seemingly finding it hard to put outfits together when they are forced with trouser, shirt/top, shoe, overcoat/jacket as separates as this is a lot of options to tie together. Many mastered the shirt/tie combo, but this is really only one variable to cover.
As has been mentioned on here multiple times, the general ‘man on the street’ frame of reference is, well, the high street shops. Maybe, in fairness, that’s no different in principle to us, it’s just our frame of reference is different and more classically focused.
Anyway, long live PS, and all who take inspiration from it.
I remember in Canada we used to refer to sneakers, as runners
@SC: in Ireland they’e also referred to as runners or gutties (but usually only by folks in middle age and older). If I need to slob out, I try and find the widest leg PJ bottoms I can match with a Sunspel long sleeved tee. If I really want to change things up, I have a delightful navy wool/nylon/lycra boiler suit from COS I bought last winter which makes brilliant workwear if you don’t mind looking like a cross between the bird from Thompson Twins, Blofeld and Winston Churchill.
I don’t own a single pair of sweatpants preferring Rapha loopback or technical trousers for walking or cycling.
For WFH purposes, it’s usually Sunspel tees/polos, Armor Lux Bretons or John Smedley tees/light knits with overdyed denim from COS or khakis. On my rare trips to the office it’s Eton jersey or pique shirts with flannels or khakis.
Yet another segment of the economy will follow the path already beaten by others.
Watches – a $10 digital watch is far more accurate than any mechanical watch will ever be…Yet 1 or 2% of the market is now high end mechanical watches – pursued by enthusiasts, with metal cases (not plastic) because of all the care and craftsmanship that goes into making them.
Eye-wear – between “Warby Parker”, and Luxxotica and laser eye surgery, the market is now $99 glasses, or $1,000 handmade frames.
Autos – 20 years from now they will all be electric – except, like watches, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston, and Rolls will all still be making 10,000 cars a year, (at $300,000 each) powered by liquid fuel being burned in internal combustion engines, uber expensive, and again, pursued by enthusiasts.
I expect clothing will follow a similar path…The $3,000 handmade shoe, or $6,000 supremely tailored suit will still be around…for those who know, and care….
Nice points, and comparisons, though I’m not sure I agree. I think there will always be a healthy chunk of people – perhaps 20%, perhaps 5% – who will care and will pursue value. For them, the good Northampton shoe, not the bespoke shoe. The well-loved Scottish cashmere knit, not the Uniqlo cheapest. But they will always be a minority too.
Very good article, I agree entirely about looking forward to making an effort when heading in to central London.
And I have greatly enjoyed getting back in to favourite shops like Anglo Italian, Trunk, Crockett & Jones, Drakes (although I still need to get back there), Blackhorse Lane Atelier and also shops like Ralph Lauren to talk to people in person again.
Regarding sweat pants, I really didn’t get point of the trend for wearing sweat pants in semi formal situations like restaurants, as suggested by the fashion press and as I have seen done in California. At home in the evening maybe, or if you need it for sport, but that is all.
I have, however, ‘discovered’ sweatshirts recently as a casual alternative to knitwear – not radical for most but definitely a change for me, and this was pre lockdown.
I love Permanent Style. It has sharpened my sartorial instincts, become a gateway to learn about interesting artisans and their products and permitted me to find a community equally passionate about elegance, quality, and style. For that Simon – a big thank you.
I think we live in an age where how we view life, style, and the future is changing very rapidly. It’s hard to keep up. What I am trying to figure out is how in this time of change – artisans will change – their philosophy and their products and how as clients we navigate the increasing breadth of options to get products that remain high quality but are relevant to the way we may live in this changing world
The problem of being a foodie and someone who enjoys wearing nice clothes is that after too many months working from home, none of my suits really fit right. Of course, this is my primary motivation to lose a few kilos, but when?
My office (in the City) has a fairly formal dress code, which includes the ubiquitous dark blue suit and light blue or white shirt. When we we go back (next year?), will it be the same? I have some doubts. I think the tie will be gone, but who knows.
Recently, my club in St. Jame’s (which you had some lovely photos taken at last year), has been toying with the idea of allowing members and guests to forgo the tie. I doubt we will, but it really is a sign of the times. But wearing a suit (of the type I would wear to work) just to visit a club does seem rather odd, given it’s meant to be a place to relax. I think wardrobes will be updated to include some of the more relaxed jackets, shirts and ties you often feature, which I think, could be a nice development.
Oh, and “sweatpants”. Urgh. What a word.
“When we we go back (next year?), will it be the same? I have some doubts. I think the tie will be gone, but who knows.”
Good article, but if you’ll indulge me I’d like to offer another view that I doubt entered your thinking.
I subscribed to PS about a year ago, possibly a few months either way. Your attention to detail is refreshing and always interesting to read. I think I mentioned in a previous post that I’m disabled, Although 67, I had a serious and life-changing road accident when I was 9 and I spent my childhood in Fulham, I think it was 1961 but I could be out by a year (apologies for the lack of clarity). Having read your piece about dress-codes whilst ‘stuck’ at home I just wanted to offer an alternative that I hope might throw light on a set of circumstances that most of your readers aren’t suffering from. Due to my injuries it’s not always practical for me to always wear the type of stylishly casual clothing that can boost one’s self-esteem, so I resort to clothing that is ultra comfortable to at least offer a more relaxed frame of mind. So whilst I don’t always subscribe to your description about why it’s preferable to dress in a specific manner, I do appreciate the sensibility that supports your opinion
I don’t lead a conventional or ‘usual’ life, whatever might be implied by that term. The explanation for this is down to my injuries which I’ve been informed will remain with me for the rest of my life. Apart from chronically scarred legs, of which my left leg is pretty dire, the accident has caused two symptoms to become part of my life. I won’ bore you with the the gory detail but suffice it to say that I receive regular help from the NHS in order to have a better quality of life. To look at me you wouldn’t know the extent of my injuries, but the fact that I’ve borrowed my surgeon’s term ‘chronic’ to explain my situation should explain the degree to which I lead such an unusual life.
My point is that while I love the content of PS much of what’s discussed has little impact on what I can wear, let alone whether this includes conference calls or the like. One of the major parts of my life involves what my parents referred to as ‘keeping my chin up’, something that in the main I do successfully. At times I’m envious of much of what I read on your blog, but I’m also grateful that you are passionate about clothing. As I’m unable to explore or investigate to the extent that you are able, I’m grateful that you can share your views with your readers. I don’t know about other readers but for myself the pages of PS offer a road-map that I’d otherwise fail to understand. I live in Sheffield and when it’s convenient I get to London 3 or 4 times a year. Each visit is carefully planned, much of which centres around Jermyn St, Knightsbridge, or the likes of Burlington arcade as the clothes I prefer are to be found in these districts. I suppose the point of writing to you was to offer an alternative view of life, one that I hope not many of your posters share. One day I hope it will be possible to arrange a consultation with you in a professional capacity, but for the moment that will have to wait.
To conclude, please cut some slack for those of us who, for personal and obvious reasons, are unable to follow the your reasons for dressing in ways that elevate life. I try Simon, I really do, but practicalities mean that I simply cannot adhere to something I’d love to adopt more often. I’m pretty certain you’ll appreciate my reasoning, and I hope I’ve not come across as self-pitying. I just wanted to explain that not all of us can adopt certain guidelines in the way you suggest. Again, I know you’ll accept this in the spirit I’ve explained.
Many thanks for your time Simon. Keep up the excellent standard that you’ve set. I’m a big admirer of PS and look forward to receiving your newsletters.
I absolutely appreciate your reasoning, of course, and thank you very much for your personal perspective. I can only say I’m very pleased PS is still something you find both interesting and entertaining.
As a dedicated follower of fashion and in my youth the designer of bespoke and creative director of Dandie Fashions king’s road and then creative director of 100 shop fashion chain of stores in England we are now witnessing the end of bespoke sadly ,napoli might continue a bit longer unconstructed .freedom.
Another well written post! I discovered PS just not too long ago and I enjoyed most of your articles and discussions. Well, I’m based in Southeast Asia, and like Paul, I’m slowly moving away from street wear to proper clothing as I’m hitting 40’s soon. My working environment (in research) has always been very casual since day 1, and as you said if people do care what they like and how to present themselves, they will not dress like a slob because of Work-from-Home arrangement. So, yes we will not all in T-shirt or shorts (here in the tropics).
Great article, Simon, thanks!
Reminds me of the late Karl Lagerfeld’s quip: ‘If you are wearing sweatpants (track bottoms, etc.), you’ve lost control of your life.’ Quite true, actually.
Speaking personally, one of the best things about a return to the office will be the opportunity to wear a suit!
As a complete aside perhaps to amuse your many readers, there was a piece in The Times a few weeks ago suggesting that someone should invent a suit that comes without trousers, especially for WFH and Zoom calls. A letter to the editor followed a few days saying: “it already has been invented – it’s called a jacket.”
Amazing. That must show up the lack of awareness of sports jacket/trouser combinations more than anything else
Re the reviled word sweatpants: “perspiration trousers,” perhaps?