Cumbria Times
A Voice of the North
Sonia Price
Features Writer
5:00 AM 4th September 2021

I’ll See You In Court - The Sad Demise Of The Gentlemen’s Suit.

Image by tommy pixel from Pixabay
Image by tommy pixel from Pixabay
From my reading of the business pages this week it would appear the arse has fallen out of men’s suits - or rather the market for men’s suits. According to Marks and Spencer, that trusty bellwether of what the great British public is wearing, or used to be wearing when we had to be dressed from top to bottom through the normal working week, sales in men’s suits has dropped markedly.

This is regrettable as I think every man should be in possession of at least one decent suit.

In the words of American rock band ZZ Top: ‘ Every girl’s crazy for a sharp-dressed man’. I haven’t seen one in ages. Now I can see it has come to this, I wish I had kept that back stash of GQ magazines from its 1990s heyday when I had a hand in marketing smart menswear.

In the advertising business at that time ‘suits’ was a disparaging term for the money men and, embarrassingly less so, women in the creative business. The ones who were an unwelcome and unloved obstacle to the excesses of the creative people. A good example is Maurice Saatchi - an immaculate suit and a merciful foil to his much more ‘expressive’ brother Charles.

Image by Gerd Altmann
Image by Gerd Altmann
Wearing a suit used to announce that you are an in-control and dependable sort - as good as your handshake. These days wearing a suit suggests you are on the back foot or worse in some kind of trouble. The kind of trouble that needs a suit. I am thinking of Mark Zuckerberg’s day in court on Capitol Hill. His PR team must have had to mug him to get him out of his hoodie and into the finest Don Draper of Mad Men attire. He was canny enough to ensure his tie colouring was close to his Facebook branding. This man doesn’t miss a trick does he?

So, it looks like the suit has had its day - for now at least. By Monday nearly all the suits in the land will be on the phone to Universal Credit for an emergency loan until they work out how they can adapt to these changing times. Don’t worry my worsted friends. Some canny fashion visionary will find a new role for you and some of you will be re-fashioned into silk-lined bras to be seen under the cashmere cardigans and jackets of the latest Hollywood darlings.

Image by Ahmed Butt
Image by Ahmed Butt
For now though, the suits are understandably up in arms - their accompanying brogues down at heel. I love this imagery - five million suits and forty million smart shirts hanging on the phone - all victims of a national sartorial divorce. The animator Gerald Scarfe would be in his element.

It’s all jeans and quality trainers these days and, as nice as you are, Mr Huge No Boss, it would seem, this isn’t your moment. There will, of course, be the accompanying fallout from their support acts. The finely woven Egyptian cotton shirts and silk ties and the ritzy cufflinks and, cheaper for the masses, silk- knots for the ‘ have-nots’. The phone lines will be in melt- down.

I like to see a man in a nice suit and ‘almost’ enjoyed shopping with my husband for his.

We went to Marks and Spencer of course because we knew we would find a no-nonsense quality suit for under £300. We had neither the time nor the inclination to scour the independent shops or the internet. Mark is a handsome arse and doesn’t give a damn what he is wearing. I did though manage to steer him into Marks and Spencer - a feat for which I think I deserve a CBE.

Mark is civic-minded enough to know that he couldn’t be naked for either occasion that demanded he bought a suit and that it was his responsibility as a decent citizen to go out and exchange some of his hard-earned cash
for some well-cut cloth.

Image Pixabay
Image Pixabay
Basically we had some business to to be dressed for and Mark needed to be properly suited. The occasions in question - the funeral of an uncle and our forthcoming wedding - three months away. On the shop floor I had no option but to take charge and so I collared a sales lady: “We need a nice suit that will serve for a wedding and a funeral - not necessarily for the same man. Can you help us?” I pleaded.

We were sorted in a jiffy. Mark was like a petulant child and refused to try the suit on and insisted that it would fit. It did. Six full minutes in a department store once a year is good going for him.

Image Pixabay
Image Pixabay
And so after just two special outings in three years Mark’s suit hangs forlorn and underexploited in his wardrobe. It will no doubt be suffering a chronic lack of
self-esteem and be questioning it’s future. It might have even hanged itself - I daren’t look.