Bare your knees, boys, short suits are now fine for the office. Or are they?
It’s a trend whose time has come, we’re told. Oscar Quine puts the theory to the test
Knee-lovers rejoice, for it is the summer of the short suit.
The combination of a blazer and a bit of leg, considered by many to be unthinkable until only recently, is taking the high street by storm. We are past the tipping point: for the coming months, let it be only the stuffy who suffer the curse of sweaty legs.
Or so some fashion industry experts have been saying of late, with the influential US website Business Insider heralding the get-up’s newfound acceptance in the workplace.
I put it to the test on Thursday, wearing to work a rather suave light cotton number in cream. It’s called the Miami and may or may not have been inspired by Don Johnson. It’s from gents’ outfitter Reiss, and would, should you care to trial the trend, set you back £264.
Asos, Topman and New Look also have affordable versions on offer. Truth be told, a few more early adopters wouldn’t go amiss. “You’re looking very smart,” says a female colleague as I walk into the office. I explain I’m writing about whether a short suit is acceptable at work. “No!” she cries. Not that smart, then.
Before I even get to my desk, co-workers have come up with a range of sobriquets: “the man from Del Monte”, “Don Draper on vacation”, “someone in a coffee ad”, a dodgy accountant, and hipster Harry Potter. Yes, dear reader, this is the sum total of wit on offer in The Independent offices.
The look has fine high fashion pedigree, though. The US designer Thom Browne is credited with introducing it to the fashion elite back in 2001. A bold proponent, he wears his short suit with a full waistcoat and tie. Since then, it has become the go-to summer outfit for the world’s fash pack. But is it yet for the everyman?
“It’s a look that designers keep pushing each spring/summer but the uptake is still relatively low,” says Jessica Punter, style and grooming editor at GQ magazine. “Here at GQ it is acceptable ... but I have yet to see the look expand beyond the fashion desk.”
Come lunchtime, the sun is shining and, while my colleagues awkwardly configure their besuited legs as we sit to eat in the park, I plonk myself down freely and stretch out my pasty pins. I notice a few double-takes. It’s hard to tell if they come with swoons or sniggers. Such attention is half the point, Ms Punter believes. She says, as the modern “selfie-obsessed” man becomes ever-more body-conscious: “The short suit provides the perfect foil to flaunting it.”
While I feel a lot like a Brit abroad (somewhere between footballer on World Cup photocall and colonial adventurer who has lost his Panama hat), Simon Chilvers, men’s style director at matchesfashion.com believes such exposure is a long way from finding a home in the UK office. “Most men, especially British ones, aren’t used to having that much of their naked flesh out among their colleagues,” he says.
By clocking-off time, feedback has been largely positive – but the Englishman in me just can’t bare those side-glances. As the father of the look, Browne, told me: “It is appropriate for anyone who has the confidence to wear it.”
So, from Monday, it’s back to the sweaty chinos for me.
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