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Financial Times Article


Senior Member
Sep 18, 2008
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I saw this in FT today, I love when you travel international you get access to lots of good reading!

Suited to the times
By Simon Brooke

Published: October 11 2008 03:00 | Last updated: October 11 2008 03:00

It may not be on the syllabus at Harvard Business School but, as almost any student of fashion will tell you, the Hemline theory of economics, proposed by American economist George Taylor in the 1920s, has been proved right repeatedly. Taylor's hypothesis states that when the economy is booming women's skirts get shorter as their confidence grows and they show off their expensive stockings or, more recently, luxuriously tanned legs.

Though Taylor never tried to apply his theory to men, the economic crisis is certainly having an observable effect on what they wear to work.

"A lot of people are going for elegant, even serious, suits at the moment," says Andrea Kinkade of tailors Oliver Woo, which has a number of outlets around the south-east of England. "Features like big collars are on their way out but subtle details such as cuffs with working buttons are increasingly popular. We're seeing more waistcoats and the return of the double-breasted suit. I think people want to show that they mean business but they're not shouting about it."

Darren Mills, one of Oliver Woo's recent clients who works for Goldman Sachs, has opted for a more serious look. "I purchased a dark blue, single-breasted pinstripe," he says. "The dress code in the office at the moment ranges from chinos and shirt through to smarter two-piece suits, pretty much the same as it has been for the past few years. I wanted a well-fitted, classic suit, which I feel always looks good, regardless of economic climate."

In Ireland, which officially moved into recession recently, there are similar demands. "People are starting to dress up once more," says Dublin-based tailor and retailer Louis Copeland. "We're selling more ties again and even waistcoats. People are not complacent about their jobs so they don't want to dress down. I think there's a feeling at the moment that if you're lax in your clothes, then you're lax in your job. There is money around still but people are more careful about how they spend it - they want classics that will last. There's a lot of interest in navy blues and greys and pinstripes."

James O'Donnell who works for an Irish legal recruitment firm, says: "Ireland, and Dublin especially, has done so well over the last few years that quite a lot of men have been experimenting with the dress-down look but now there's definitely a return to smarter office clothes."

In Spain, where there have been concerns about the economy for some time, executives are opting, counter-intuitively, for a confident look. Felipe Martinez, who works in commercial property in Madrid, says: "Spanish men admire classic English tailoring but we like to add our own details. I've seen a lot more ties recently - partly because they look smart and partly, I think, because they can add a touch of personal style."

Over on Wall Street one trader says: "The dress-down look was always difficult because there were no rules, so we were glad to see the back of that. Now things are a tad confused - do you dress smart so that you look like you're ready to do serious business or does that make you look over-confident?"

New York-based tailor and menswear retailer Duncan Quinn says: "Right now the game seems to be about looking suitably serious without out-dressing the powers that be - always a tricky political conundrum."

But one bespoke client ended up rejecting a range of understated clothes and went, instead for a number of suits in colourful rope-stripes. "He just couldn't bring himself to commit to the plain greys, blues and blacks," says Quinn. After all, when share prices fall and hemlines follow, then a guy needs something to cheer himself up.


Power dressing - Jasper Berens
Published: October 11 2008 03:00 | Last updated: October 11 2008 03:00

Jasper Berens, 38, has been the head of UK sales at JP Morgan for 10 years. He and his team of 40 deal with the sales of asset management investment products to financial advisers.

Suit by Tom James

I have a strong view on how people dress: you never get a second chance to make a first impression. The bespoke tailors Tom James come to the office to fit me, which is a fantastic use of time - I don't even need to leave my desk. My tailor Paul Adler (020 7247 5246) also acts as a consultant. He gives presentations to my team on how they should look, on trends, and also on what doesn't work in the office. The type of wool this suit is made of - a super 130 lightweight weave - feels very good to wear. You wear suits every day, so spending a little bit more is a decent investment.


Shirt by Charles Tyrwhitt

I've been wearing Charles Tyrwhitt shirts for several years. This one is from their Superfine 180 range, their most luxurious. Getting colour combinations right is really important; I chose this gingham shirt as it suits the shade of my suit.


Tie by T M Lewin

The Chris Tarrant grey shirt and grey tie combo is a no-no; why people do that I simply don't understand. The sales team need to let what JP Morgan has to say speak for itself, without detracting from it with an inappropriate outfit.


Shoes by Loake

The first thing people look at is your bearing and the second thing is what you wear. People will look you up and down, and then look at your shoes, so they should be well kept-up. Loake's and Church's keep their shape and polish well.


Cufflinks by Links of London

I avoid comedy cufflinks; I'm not sure they send out the right message. I wear either silver or gold, but cotton cufflinks that match the colour of your tie work well too.





Carol Alayne

New Member
Oct 12, 2008
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Far from it. I found the thread really interesting and informed. I used to do a lot of tailoring for men until a couple of Savile Row's finest started to get me in to work for some of their women clients. The rest is history! Very interesting however that whereas there is a lot of choice for men out there...there is still comparatively little for women.



Well-Known Member
Oct 5, 2006
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Mmm hard to tell whether in fact men are dressing more conservatively because of the recent downturn or whether they were dressing up anyway and the downturn is a convenient journalist-friendly peg to hang it all on - its a standard about-face of reality (or at least timing) to make a story seem stronger. My thrupenny bit's defintiely on the former. After all we've all been blathering on here and elsewhere about a return to smarter office dress for about three years.
Or maybe, just maybe, if the financial powers had been monitoring tie colours instead of interest rates we might have averted this crash altogether.....

Cary Grant

Distinguished Member
Sep 8, 2008
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^^^ I don't think "conservative" is right in this context if, by "dressing up" you mean "conservative".

I had this conversation Friday with a haberdasher friend and they have seen business growing each month and say many of their customers have (implied) if not said flat out, that they feel the "need" to dress better "these days" for all kinds of reasons.

Cary Grant

Distinguished Member
Sep 8, 2008
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Originally Posted by Carol Alayne
Far from it. I found the thread really interesting and informed. I used to do a lot of tailoring for men until a couple of Savile Row's finest started to get me in to work for some of their women clients. The rest is history! Very interesting however that whereas there is a lot of choice for men out there...there is still comparatively little for women.


Interesting reversal, isn't it. Because, when looking at off the rack retail it is certainly the opposite: scores of choices for women and very few for men. Most department stores sell the same 3 brands of suits, the same two brands of polo shirst, the same three brands of underwear.

My local Macy's has 1/3 of a florr for men's versus 1.5 floors for women (two if you count the other 1/2 floor being 95% women's perfume, makeup etc).
Jul 2, 2008
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I have definitely seen men dressing up more now that the economic tides have shifted. Advertising is important in times like this and the way you look is your personal advertisement. When two people go for the same job or same client the one with the sharp professional appearance is going to have a distinct edge. How you look says a lot about how you think and what you do.


I used to work for the Tom James company but now I work for my clients. I found their company culture to be more about selling more and less about customer service. That is why I split off from them 7 years ago and started my own company My Haberdasher. My clients have seen a big improvement in my ablity to serve them and deliver high quality suit & shirts at prices that have stayed the same instead of steadily increasing. I do know Paul Adler and he is a great guy, very funny and dresses quite well. I have not experienced the UK Tom James stores but I do know that if any gent is in Paul's care he is in good hands.

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