Reporting here from the hot tub time machine, it’s 2010. Business analysts and those with even a passing interest in menswear will remember this as the year Suit Supply became in a worldwide phenomenon. It was also when, for the first time, new technology allowed men to customize their own suits online without having to subject themselves to annoying hassles like tailors or the hassle of going into a store.
Incidentally, 2010 also coincided with some other changes in the evolution of fashion, and this may be the place to highlight a fact about menswear that is generally too underappreciated. As a male uniform, the dress has changed very little in 400 years, dress historians say. (Regarding what: Harry Styles in a suit wouldn’t have been much of a shout-out to the denizens of the pre-industrial era, when men and women wore tunics and aristocratic children wore suits until they graduated to two-legged pieces in a rite of passage known as “shoeing”)
In other words, although dresses have always been with us, their proportions are constantly changing with tastes, and by the second decade of this century, the influence of the American designer Thom Browne had been placed on every corner of an industry that was looking for direction. For anyone who doesn’t know the influence of Mr. Browne, let’s put it this way: Dear, he shrunk the suit.
Mr. Browne made tighter, shorter jackets, making posters for the men’s rear. He designed skinny pants so short that men suddenly had ankles again.
Mainstream fashion may have shied away from the more extreme manifestations of the skimpy dress, and yet it got the memo. Guys of all shapes and sizes, from “giraffes” to “short kings,” embraced tight suits, made them their default business attire, and stuck with it. Then, of course, the pandemic happened, and no one needs to read another story about what he did with hard pants and blazers.
Now, of course, large numbers of workers are returning to the office. A surprising number have already been working in corporate ant farms for months or even, in the case of some investment banks, up to a year.
As far as the RTO outfit is concerned, then, it is the finance brothers who are leading the way. And for anyone who wants to observe these individuals in their natural habitat, the ideal viewing platform is the atrium of Brookfield Place, a large office and shopping mall complex in Manhattan’s financial district. There, this menswear critic parked up on three separate lunchtime afternoons last week to take a snapshot of what businessmen wear to the office. If the information gathered was in some sense random, it was also surprising in every case.
Far from dressing very differently than they did before Covid-19 sent workers scattered to the safety of dormitory workspaces, the finance colleagues, it turns out, were dressed the same way as the people who had these same jobs would have done when Barack Obama occupied the White House. . Unlike the former president, whose sartorial tastes were often a bit dated, the men who descended the escalators from the Royal Bank of Canada, financial services companies such as American Express or the Jones Day law firm, or they picked up baguette ham sandwiches from Le District in the brown bag. in nearby financial behemoths like Goldman Sachs, it looked well-updated. That is, if the date in question was 2010.
“What am I wearing?” said David, a 30-year Goldman employee who, like many interviewed for this story, cited company policy in declining to provide his full name. “Who wants to know?”
It turns out that David’s way of dressing could serve as a template for all the financial bros in the official RTO phase. (David Solomon, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, has been a staunch opponent of the hybrid work trend, saying repeatedly that he views remote work as an aberration and expects employees to return to the office full-time.)
Like almost everyone interviewed, or even seen, at Brookfield Place, David wore a crisp white shirt with an open collar. It was a $99 lee shirt from Mizzen+Main. It fit his muscular torso perfectly. And so did its $148 Navy Side Pocket Polyester New Venture Stretch Pants and Lululemon Business Casual New Venture Stretch Pants. His lace-up oxfords came from Bruno Magli, he said. They were black.
This, in context, was practically a punk rock gesture given that, for reasons unknown, many business consumers have been convinced to buy their shoes in a light brown shade that evokes a cheap spray tan. Passed by a neutral tone for the wardrobe, this color, in fact, does not go with anything. It doesn’t help much when shoemakers darken the toe to look artificially aged.
“We’re a little less dressed up than we used to be,” said David de Goldman, echoing a common refrain. Less elegant in this context means no tie except for meetings with clients.
It’s true that some people wore shorts and flip-flops to the office during the heyday of love, when intrepid employees insisted on working in corporate headquarters so empty they were like giant WeWork cubicles. At banks like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase, experts say, top executives continue to cling to certain pandemic customs as signifiers of elevated status. “Unlined cashmere blazers, dark jeans and Allbirds are symbolic vectors of antiquity,” an investment banker at a top firm said last week.
At one stretch, “you could wear jeans on a Friday,” explained Arjun Menon, 33, an employee at Goldman Sachs. Mr Menon was quick to add that he was not allowed to speak to the press, though not before revealing that the navy side pocket trousers he wore with a white open-neck shirt and a pair of lace-up oxfords : Michael. Bublé Ballad of Footwear: These were purchased at Suit Supply.
On the evidence available, Suit Supply, Lululemon, Club Monaco and Brooks Brothers (though not the revitalized, trend-conscious iteration of the venerable draper’s offerings produced under the creative direction of Michael Bastian) remain the labels of choice for to many white-collar workers. This is especially true for bullpen bankers, the guys fresh out of MBA programs, still making a mark and not yet so jaded that they secretly long to burn their corporate logo fleeces.
(Things are different, one insider explained, for tech industry insiders. Showing up in a suit to a client meeting in Silicon Valley, where the novelty sock trend never went away, “would look downright weird “, he said).
When it comes to shoes, brand favorites flock to mid-priced offerings from labels like Johnston & Murphy, To Boot and Allen Edmonds, a Wisconsin manufacturer founded in 1922 that came to public attention during World War II. when he manufactured shoes for the army. .
While there wasn’t much luxury footwear for men at Brookfield Place: its atrium-level mall, with its sentinel palm trees, is anchored by glitzy boutiques selling Bottega Veneta, Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo and Gucci , who may owe as much. like anything in a bear market.
“Maybe if we get a bonus, I’ll buy some Gucci,” said Charles Li, 26, a Scotiabank employee. Mr Li wore well-tailored basics (blue trousers, white shirt, oxfords) from Suit Supply, whose Brookfield Place store is on the mezzanine level. A colleague of Mr Li’s, Allan Bossard, 23, was dressed in an almost identical fashion.
“Sure, I care about clothes,” said Mr. Bossard But, he said, that’s no less true now than it was before the permanent shutdowns began in 2020. “It’s important to be presentable in the office, but also as if you’re representing the company.”
For Ryan Meiser, 31, an investment analyst at Royal Bank of Canada, the back-to-the-office phase signaled little real change in his morning routine. “You want to make up your mind about dressing,” said Mr. Meiser, who was wearing a white shirt by Giorgio Armani, gray pants by Zegna and shoes by a manufacturer whose name he had forgotten.
But in the end, what you choose to bring to the office may be a less relevant issue than where exactly that place might be. “Three days a week in the office is mandatory, with Monday and Friday optional,” said Mr. meiser
“On the weekends,” he added with a laugh, “we’re free to work from home.”