The Genteel
October 29, 2020


GQ Magazine Sartorial Suit
GQ claims the traditional three-piece suit 
is a man's "new" sartorial weapon. 

What are the first thoughts that come to mind when you see a man in a suit? Professional? Sophisticated? Upwardly mobile? The suit has been integral in Western business attire for hundreds of years, and it continues to represent professionalism in the finance, legal and executive worlds (among others). I'll be the first to recognise and applaud an immaculately tailored jacket or tapered pant. But, the equation that a suit equals professionalism is one mired in classism, resistance to change and depersonalisation. But, with the emergence of new industries and a new breed of entrepreneur over the last two decades, there are rumblings of change in traditional business attire.

The idea that the suit is a required component of a man's wardrobe is also reinforced by the media. From news anchors to politicians to sports commentators, the face of media is entirely suit-oriented. Award ceremonies and opening nights depict our favourite actors as suit-clad, debonair men radiating a suaveness that we aspire to. These events are awash in a sea of black suits and tuxedos that vary little with the seasons, whereas in complete contrast, leading female ladies are expected to showcase a catalogue of straight-off-the-runway dresses to the tune of snapping cameras. 

However, since the 1990s tech boom, there have been rumblings of change in business attire. With the emergence of new industries - particularly technology - and a new breed of entrepreneur, men at the helm of many of today's leading businesses look very different from the old boys club of yore.

Publications such as GQ help sustain the status quo of suit life but also encourage better fit and customisation. Consistently harping on the idea that the suit is the best attire a man can aim for, readers are led to assume that suiting is naturally their best option. GQ writers often have good insight as to what makes a good suit. Articles such as A Ten-Step GQ Guide to Nailing Office Style may perpetuate the notion that men need to be wearing a suit, but they also offer good advice on how to differentiate oneself from the mundane.

However, since the 1990s tech boom, there have been rumblings of change in traditional business attire. With the emergence of new industries - particularly technology - and a new breed of entrepreneur, men at the helm of many of today's leading businesses look very different from the old boys club of yore. These are idea men: designers, inventors and code junkies who are building successful companies; groups such as Facebook, Google and many others. Unlike in the supposed upper echelons of the corporate world - where all employees are expected to suit up for the office, removing the persona of the individual, in favour of a cookie cutter aesthetic - there are offices and entire companies that live and work in casualwear

It is partly because these groups don't rely on the classic formula of having traditional businessmen at the helm that the people working for them have the freedom to express their individuality and creativity. With billionaires such as Richard Branson (Virgin Group) and Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks, Magnolia Pictures) already taken to wearing jeans and sport jackets, will more conventional workplaces follow suit and overhaul office wear formalities? 

There are already small professional communities that have shaken off the suit in favour of their own style of dress - for example, Vancouver's Gastown district: a neighbourhood heralded for its heritage appeal and young entrepreneurial class. This group of stylish, outside-the-box dressers are much more likely to don apparel from Wings + HornsNudie and Penfield, instead of Armani, no matter how successful they might be. One reason might be that the men working in Gastown exude a lifestyle, as opposed to separating work and relaxation. This lifestyle element enables the area to thrive, as many businesses and shops associate with one another and create a down-to-earth camaraderie between professionals, residents, shop workers, and anyone else in the neighbourhood.

The Viridi Anne Suit
Metallic-Fiber One-Button Jacket by The Viridi-Anne
offers a unique take on the traditional suit.

There are many suiting options that can set you apart for the status quo. For instance, The Viridi-anne has offerings such as the hook closure wool jacket and metallic-fiber one-button jacket: non-traditional pieces that mix formality with an avant-garde edge. Individual Sentiments offers a two-button summer suit that appeals to modern cuts in a stark dove-white colouring. Known especially for his unique approach to leatherwork, Austrian designer Carol Christian Poell has also created a jointed elbow taped seam blazer: a sophisticated number with a construction that sets it apart from the average blazer. 

I would never decry a man for wearing a suit. Far from it, in fact, as I really appreciate the nuances and classic appeal of talented tailoring. The question remains as to whether traditional workplaces will relax their dress codes and follow the practices coming out of workplaces in Silicon Valley. After all, when I meet a potential client, partner or otherwise, I don't infer their professionalism from what they are wearing - whether it's a suit or a denim vest. Professionalism goes beyond dress and encompasses ability, etiquette, timeliness, work product and a plethora of other factors. Does the suit really make the man? I certainly don't believe so.



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