Underscoring a move into adulthood is an urge to Tipp-Ex out what came before, and that extends to your dress code. If growing up and “joining the rat race” can be sartorially semaphored by a business suit, then it is a necessary rite of passage to attempt to subvert that. When I was a teen, I had two distinct attempts at doing the anti-suit. The first was influenced by my favourite film for many years, Swingers (don’t try to rewatch it now; it has not aged well), which, though it is ostensibly about LA actors trying to make it in the mid-90s, harked back to Rat Pack looks via the swing revival.
My own attempt to copy the look was a ratchety, badly photocopied version: flatulent kipper ties, mothball-stinking shirts with massive collars and cheap surf shirts that felt as if they were made from iron wire. It was an odd period. I’d turn up to a Wetherspoon or Blockbuster in a full suit and massive tie, as if I’d got lost on the way to the office. In 1957.
Sub-Mad Men it might have been, but the second attempt was worse. That involved mixing a cheap, high-street suit jacket (and occasionally suit trousers) with other clothes. At the same time, I’d grown out my fringe and had taken to wearing sunglasses in the day, like a celebrity harassed by a hungry paparazzi. Although, in retrospect, I looked ridiculous, I didn’t think so at the time. It was what might be called today a “broken suit”, but only in so far as I was mainly broke for the entire period of this clothing experiment.
In the age of hot-desking and “always on” culture, the loosening up of the traditional suit is a logical next step; you’re physically all over the place, so why shouldn’t your clothes reflect this? That’s not to say this look is about appearing as if you got dressed in the dark. Lauded British designer Martine Rose has done the broken suit in the right way: there’s thrift-shop intent in her combinations of posh school ties, double jacketing and shirts in primary colours. It’s Babies-era Pulp meets Wes Anderson in Trash.
Here, I’ve combined a light grey suit with a sporty, zip-up polo neck and white trainers. It’s a look that says, “Hey, guys, can you get those reports to me asap? I’ve just got to dash out to my improvisational jazz class. BRB.”
Styling: Melanie Wilkinson. Hair and makeup: Samantha Cooper at Carole Hayes Management.