Sep 20, 2021
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Casualisation not the end of the road for office suits says Charles Tyrwhitt study

Sep 20, 2021

Formal suits haven’t been the biggest sellers in the past year-and-a-half and the gradual return to offices is also seeing more relaxed dress codes. But suits and shirts retailer Charles Tyrwhitt has commissioned an independent survey that shows it may not be the end for men’s smart office clothing.

Charles Tyrwhitt

The research, “backed by a leading psychologist”, suggests that a man’s state of mind when wearing a smart business suit and the state of mind of those interacting with that person mean there’s still a place for such suits in business.

Admittedly, the study did also find that half of all workers who’ve gone back to the office have found that dress codes are now more relaxed than they were pre-pandemic. That’s significant given that it comes after a general trend towards casualisation that was already making an impact before the global health crisis.

But survey respondents said they feel “the timeless suit and shirt still lead the way when it comes to making a strong first impression – over 65% of men believe this and almost a third feel more productive when they’re dressed smartly”.

It means that a suit is likely to remain a must-have for most office-based men, even if it’s only wheeled out in its full glory for events like interviews and important meetings. “There’s still power in that suit”, said psychologist Lee Chambers.

The sentiment is backed up by Charles Tyrwhitt’s own recent sales figures with the company saying that while sales of “business casual” clothing were accelerating at the end of August and through September, so were sales of suits and formal shirts.

It all suggests that while a hybrid working pattern that mixes working from home with being in the office could become the norm, a hybrid dressing pattern could take over too. That means joggers at home, business casual for much of the time in the office and suits at key moments. That could work in the menswear sector’s favour as men feel the need to buy a more varied wardrobe of clothes in the same way that women have done for many years.

Joe Irons, Chief Marketing Officer at Charles Tyrwhitt said: “Sales and customer sentiment show what we firmly believe – it isn’t one or the other, when it comes to dressing well at work – a varied, hybrid wardrobe wins every time. Last week, sales of [our] Business of Life smart casual collection soared, with polos, jackets and chino sales continuing to grow, up 154%. Tyrwhitt’s suits were also up significantly, proving that men now need a wider selection of product to help them navigate through their new working life.’’

Lee Chambers, who was at the heart of the research, added: "The balance between formality and comfort has certainly become a pressing challenge over the past 18 months, and while there is an increased appetite for casual dress codes, the benefits of what we call ‘enclothed cognition’, come when we feel confident in our attire and feel that it represents working environments.

“Feeling dressed for work puts us in a psychological state where we can attach to our tasks, perform optimally and step forward confidently. It also gives us fewer worries about how we may be perceived, and fewer decisions to make on whether we are smart enough for the hybrid way of working, and these concerns can drain our brainpower, making us less productive.”

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