Dress-down era ends as suit sales rise

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The Independent Online

Don't throw away that pin-striped two-piece suit just yet. It seems that the dress-down era may be over almost as soon as it began.

Don't throw away that pin-striped two-piece suit just yet. It seems that the dress-down era may be over almost as soon as it began.

Research in London and New York has revealed a sudden increase in sales of suits at the end of last year.

The trend appears to have been started by twentysomethings who see a suit as a symbol of their professional success, according to David Wolfe, creative director of Doneger Group, a US retail consultancy. "The fact is that people still like wearing suits for work, especially the younger generation of people who have never done so before," he says.

"Some stores had contemplated dropping suits but now they're reconsidering. They were so convinced that casual wear would be the only thing worn for work but that's just not the case."

Mark Henderson, chief executive of Gieves & Hawkes, the gentleman's outfitter, believes that a similar trend is evident over here. "Sales of suits in the City did dip a bit," he admits. "Every Saturday, we had hundreds of people turning up at our shops saying 'Help, it's dress down!' But our suit business is very strong at this point because younger guys just want to look smart."

With the proliferation of dress-down policies, Gap chinos and Ralph Lauren open-necked shirts appeared to have become ubiquitous. A term, "business casual", was coined to describe the new sartorial code.

There may be other reasons for the suit's renaissance. The rise of dress-down coincided with the internet revolution as young iconoclasts delighted in flouting the old rules of business. However, with the demise of many of these businesses, a more traditional style of dress once more has found favour. Even technology gurus such as Bill Gates of Microsoft have chosen to sport ties at public events.

In the City, meanwhile, bankers concerned about the threat of redundancy are increasingly turning back to the suit. At Goldman Sachs, the investment banking giant, the dress down policy is not catching on. "If you wear a suit, it looks as though you're visiting a client," said one banker. "And if you are not seen to be visiting enough clients, you get the sack."

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