Ditch the suit
Gone are the days of strict dress codes and stuffy shirts and ties – most men take a more relaxed approach to working wear these days. ANA KINSELLAreports
The late Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day for most of his long career at Apple: a black turtleneck, blue jeans and white New Balance trainers. As the chief executive of a leading international company, his actions were a blow to the role of the suit in the workplace. So, if the man responsible for the iPod and the iPhone didn’t let a suit get in the way of his work, do the rest of us need to? With fewer workplaces requiring strict dress codes, and without the suit as the go-to office outfit, what’s a young man to wear?
Feelance photographer and designer, 27
I work as a designer and photographer. I was print designer for the Dublin Web Summit until Christmas, but now I’m working freelance. My clients’ expectations don’t affect what I wear. As a freelancer, you can wear what you want and it’s part of who you are.
In my experience, my clients have bought into me as a package. They like my work, but they also like who I am and what I’m about. Typically, I might wear some leather shoes, chukka boots in the autumn, jeans or chinos with an Oxford cloth shirt or a T-shirt. Then a crew-neck sweater, cashmere if I’m feeling flush.
I like suits and I own three, but I only wear them for, say, an evening’s socialising, or going to a nice restaurant. I would get funny looks if I wore them in a work context. I enjoy wearing suits, but on my own terms. If I wore one every day, I would end up looking like most of the bank managers and estate agents in Ireland. There are definitely ways to dress smartly for work without a suit – grooming goes a long way, too.
Marketing director, NewsWhip, 24
I used to think I would end up working in finance, but after college I decided to give start-ups a go while I was paying rent rather than a mortgage. There was no mention of a dress code when I started at NewsWhip, although it was understood that it would be pretty relaxed. We’ve recently launched our iPhone app, so I have to be ready to do all sorts of jobs at the moment.
Typically, I wear a shirt with a jumper and jeans – simple stuff. It’s always stuck with me that while it mightn’t matter to yourself what you’re wearing, it affects other people’s perceptions of you. It’s about being presentable, so I do put more thought into it now than when I was a student. But I never wear a tie; no suits either. For the most part, I think in the media there aren’t many suit-and-tie-types anymore.
One of my friends put it to me like this: why would you ruin something as cool as a suit by wearing it to work every day?
UX and web designer, Lucidity Digital, 23
I started at Lucidity Digital last September. User experience design is a new frontier for many companies. I cover UX design as well as visual design. It’s both creative and quite technical. When I started, I dressed more informally, some clothes I had left over from summer, but as the seasons changed, I bought neater stuff. I go for slim chinos, a nice jumper and a shirt. When winter came along, I invested in a good overcoat from Zara.
I worked in Amsterdam last summer at a programme called Start-Up Boot Camp, based in Vodafone HQ there. It was a very casual, young, energetic workplace.
There is a tendency among designers to be more relaxed or adventurous with clothing. But I’ve never worn a suit for a job before. In this industry, I would question its necessity. It would show a misunderstanding of the ethos. Design is people-oriented. User experience design is about exhibiting an understanding of people. It’s not about putting on a tie and looking down at them.
Fashion communications executive, ThinkHouse PR, 23
I’ve worked at Thinkhouse for two years. When I first came in, everyone was dressed so well, but nobody wore suits. It wasn’t what I expected. At the interview, I wore a piece from an NCAD graduate – a black cape-jacket with loads of different buttons on it. Wearing something with a story behind it was a great talking point for the interview.
We are encouraged to never change outfits for work. If I’m meeting clients I’d never dress more formally. If anything it’d be even crazier. I’d wear anything from a studded suit to platform shoes and a cape. My colleagues really like my style. Some are amused by my outfits, but a lot of people here have a crazy sense of style – one guy loves his vintage Hawaiian shirts, for instance. I couldn’t work somewhere with a strict dress code. It’s a massive part of who I am. I buy a lot of stuff from NCAD graduates because I think it’s so important to support them. You get good value, hand-made stuff, made in Ireland. It’s a win-win situation.
Barista/wholesale, 3FE Espresso, 23
3FE is quite an international company. We have staff from America, Norway, Spain, and Scotland – me.
I split the week between working as barista and doing wholesale deliveries, but I dress the same throughout the week.
The aim is to be smart but functional, so I wear shirts, dark trousers, and comfortable shoes, as I stand a lot. It’s looking presentable, but in clothes that I don’t mind getting covered in milk. It’s important to look smart. For us, it shows that we take coffee seriously. We’re not just trying to pass time until payday. We’re really passionate about coffee. I used to work in a cafe in Berlin. We were aware of what we wore and how it sets the tone for the cafe, so it was similar to 3FE. I couldn’t see myself in a job where I had to wear a suit. Without wanting to generalise, I don’t think I would fit in well with a suit-heavy environment. Even with 3FE’s business side, it isn’t the kind of environment that would necessitate a suit. You can be presentable without having to wear a suit nowadays.
Accountant, Grant Thornton, 22
It’s important to be presentable in this industry. If you look untidy meeting a client, they won’t take you seriously – it’d be like you went to the doctor and they came in wearing tracksuit bottoms. It’s not the right tone. But I do try to change it up, so at least I stand out a little bit among the average suit-and-tie guys. Decent shirts help a lot, so I end up spending a good bit of money on shirts. It makes you stand out, even in a regular suit.
I go shopping about once a month. I read magazines like GQ to see stuff that I like the look of, then I try to find something similar. I like how Justin Timberlake wears a suit and tie. David Gandy always looks good too.
Outside of work I have my own standard style, but it would be very different from my office-wear. It might be a shirt and chinos, but I wouldn’t ever wear a suit on a night out – for me, there just isn’t much call for it outside of the work week.
Managing director, Cashmere Media, 30
I formed Cashmere Media with director Conor Maloney after we graduated from Coláiste Dhúlaigh almost 10 years ago. People think it’s such a glamourous industry, but it’s definitely not. At all. But it is its own reward.
There’s two different typical days for us. If we’re going out shooting, that’s about dressing in a very practical way. Hiking boots, North Face jackets, heavy fleeces, thermal tops and rain bottoms, because you could be filming out in the elements. Clothing that you can get dirty. Then, when you’re in the office, going to meetings, you have a chance to express yourself through your clothes.
I like a mish-mash of styles, between the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. I love Chelsea boots and winkle-pickers. Flared jeans or skinny jeans. I’m a bit of a rock’n’roller and I like a check shirt, Rory Gallagher-style. The media can be so focused on appearances, but we never try to go with the cool crowd. We always try to keep our own identity, and clothes are such a big part of that.
Sales, Appleby Jewellers, 24
I have to wear a suit every day at work, but I don’t mind it. When you’re showing people very expensive stuff, you want people to think you’ve made an effort. I have three I wear for work, from Louis Copeland, and they have a cut that suits me. I buy handmade shoes, too.
I like Crockett Jones, but I spend too much money on them.
I play in two bands. In The Pacifics we have a uniform, not quite suits, but shirts and ties.
I put an emphasis on dressing sharply in the bands I’m in. I was in a band called The Wild Ones when I was 17 and we played old rock’n’roll standards. We thought, well, what did they wear back then? Everyone wore suits. So we did too. It’s hot and uncomfortable, playing fast rock’n’roll for two hours, but it’s worth it. When you’re at a gig it’s nicer if the band has made an effort. Same with my day job: you want the customer to feel like you have made an effort for them.