Sartorial surrender

I have previously written a couple of posts about what I wear. My new fluffy gown has been mentioned, as essential for staying warm whilst blogging. Some time later, the always useful sheepskin bootees got their spotlight too, for the same reason. But it was not always thus.

There was a time when I always wore suits. Even casually popping down to the Wimpy Bar as a teenager would see me dressed in a smart two-piece, crisp shirt, and a tie of course. I would put on a jacket to answer the door rather than be thought scruffy, and spent awkward evenings at my girlfriend’s parents’ house cocooned in a three piece affair, that included lapels on the waistcoat. As soon as the weather got colder, overcoats or leather jackets were essential too, completing the outfit when out and about. I would not have been seen dead in a T-shirt, and didn’t even own one until the 1990s, when they were issued to me as part of a uniform. If the weather was hot, I still wore a suit, changing to lightweight materials in summer colours. And when I wore a tie, it was never undone at the collar, as so frequently seen now. Shoes had to match socks, and if they were leather, had to be shiny at all times.

By 1980, I was wearing a uniform for work. At the time, it was not unlike a two-piece suit, although the tie was a clip-on, for safety reasons. However, I could feel myself becoming lax. After wearing uniform all day, it was all too easy to not bother, once I got home. My love affair with dressing gowns began at around that time, as I became less inclined to bother to dress smartly around the house. Not long after that, I took to wearing shorts a lot during the warm weather, paired with open-neck summer shirts. I still didn’t own a pair of denim jeans, although I embraced the new fashion for the smarter ‘Chino’ styles of trousers.

By the time I reached my forties, I still wore suits on any social occasion. Whether it was a restaurant meal, a visit to the theatre, or attending any function with family or friends, I was always to be seen ‘suited-up’, despite the fact that almost everyone else was by then dressed as casually as they could manage to get away with. One evening, I went to dinner at the house of a friend of my ex-wife. They thought it was very strange to see me arrive wearing a suit, and even stranger that I declined to remove my jacket when offered the chance. They told me later that they had presumed I was going on somewhere afterwards, or had arrived from something else; a funeral or wedding perhaps.

I had to face facts. People were no longer dressing like me anymore, at least in the winter. I was becoming an anachronism. On one night out with another friend who was also wearing a suit, we were approached by two young women. Any idea that they were remotely interested in us soon faded when they asked if we owned the nightclub, as they wanted to report a stolen bag. If I was out shopping in central London, I would often be asked questions by fellow customers, who presumed that I must be a member of staff, to be wearing a suit. I dragged out my tradition for a few more years. I always attended work functions smartly dressed, horrified to see my colleagues turning up in sweatshirts, jeans, and trainers. Attendance at something formal, like a wedding, also required that I look respectable, even though not wearing ties and sporting mis-matched outfits were becoming more acceptable socially, I considered this to be beyond the pale.

By the time I got close to retirement, I had almost reached the end. My suit count was down to two, and I no longer wore cufflinks. On the occasion of my large leaving party, combining retiring from work with leaving the capital, I finally wore a suit without a tie, even though it felt very strange. Once in Norfolk, I rapidly adopted what we have come to know as, ‘The Norfolk Uniform.’ The ubiquitous zip-up fleece top, matched with warm jogger-style trousers, and just a T-shirt underneath. Up here, this outfit is acceptable for almost anything, and copes with the weather too. I no longer have a belt, and my tie collection gathers dust, shaken off for funerals or weddings only. I am down to one suit, for the first time since I was around twelve years old, and I haven’t bought a new shirt in years.

Clothes shopping is now based on practicality, something that would have caused a shudder to my younger self. A selection of fleeces, waterproofs, heavy top coats, and even an unspeakable cap now reside in my wardrobe. My most recent purchases have been all-weather trousers, hiking boots, and walking socks.

The white flag is waving. My surrender is complete.

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24 thoughts on “Sartorial surrender

  1. Having spent most of my life in one sort of uniform or another, I know exactly what you mean. But I was brought up believing in an unwritten dress code for men! In the 70’s, suits were for ‘dads’ and ‘Mods’ and interviews! For many years now I have had only 2 defaults; extra smart or extra-scruffy! Smart-casual is a foreign country to me! It’s now either jogging-trousers and sweat-shirt, or one of my old, almost ‘retro’ suits, where the only look I can pull off is that of ‘1980’s CID’! In 2005 I once wore a pinstripe-suit for an official trip to France and, on the ferry, half a dozen strangers asked me for information about the ship and the crossing! Suits equal authority! How I laughed!

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    1. That’s right mate. If you want to be allowed into somewhere, you can’t beat a suit for that. I often think about how I would wear a three-piece suit to go to the cinema as a teenager. To sit in the dark, creased-up and uncomfortable, for almost three hours.
      Conditioning.
      Hope you are all well up there. Love from down here. Pete. x

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  2. 🙂 Good to see you can keep up with the times, Pete 😉

    For myself, I have almost zero interest in dressing up – with the result that I have often found myself in the opposite position to your good self. Women, it seems, are still supposed to revel in looking nice. Personally, I revel in being comfortable and hence have a very large bone to pick with the idiot(s) who invented little black dresses and high-heeled shoes. Ugh!

    If women’s suits were as comfortable as men’s suits look to be, I might be persuaded to wear one. Tie and all. I always quite liked my school tie. As it is… I live in chinos and checked shirts and everyone else has to put up with it! I did manage to find a light jacket for my daughter’s graduation last summer because… well… it was Cambridge… and they insisted. I still wore the chinos, though 😉 I have also been known to wear a dress, just occasionally, in summer, when the weather gets too unbearably hot for anything else, but it will always be one in which I can move…

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      1. Indeed. Very practical. Unlike women’s suits, where the pockets get sewn together, if they exist at all. Meanwhile, men even get pockets in their pyjamas…

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  3. Made me laugh. I’m now down to one suit, a recent clear out said goodbye to my old work suits and my tuxedo! With Polands booming second hand clothing market I may well see them again one day!

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  4. I bought one suit when I was a teenager, and two sports coats after moving to Nevada. I can no longer remember why! I’ve spent most of my life wearing T-shirts, faded jeans, and solid black tennis shoes. However, I abandoned T-shirts ten years ago or so and now only wear short-sleeve button-up shirts. I’ve never owned a jogging suit, and, despite the Las Vegas heat, don’t wear shorts when out and about. My wife, though, likes to dress smart, even when traipsing through the desert….

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