The return of the City suit

 (M&S/Mr Porter)
(M&S/Mr Porter)

Men in the City are dressing much more smartly than they were a year ago, noticeably.

This is more than just an anecdote. Next boss Simon Wolfson today confirms what I’d spotted in City restaurants and bars in the last few months in particular.

The return of the simple suit signals several things, not all of them good.

In some ways it is just folk following suit (forgive the pun). If everyone around you looks traditionally smart, the pressure is on for you to do the same.

For a certain sort of bloke that takes little interest in clothes really (that’s most of us) wearing a suit is just easier. A broker said to me the other day: “Smart casual is a real effort, I have to think about it. If I’ve got a hangover (he usually does), just a clean shirt and this week’s suit and I’m good to go.”

It’s not just laziness, it is also part of the shift back to the office. City job cuts are happening and more are probably coming. Some bankers look like they are already dressing for their next job interview.

These cycles came and went long before Covid. Back in 2016 JP Morgan, one of the most buttoned up of the big banks, told staff that its new dress code was business casual.

This lasted for a while. If you meet a JP Morgan guy now, he will almost certainly have a suit on (ties remain optional).

During the dotcom boom there was briefly a trend for bankers to wear hoodies and trainers to look like their clients, albeit in a ridiculous way for any who were over 40.

When that boom bust, the bankers were relieved to return to suits that, if nothing else, cover up all manner of physical failings. Some of us have discovered that suits not worn for some time appear to have shrunk. This is good news for Next, M&S, Ted Baker and everyone on Savile Row.