Are suits redundant?

As I sit here in a woollen jumper and leggings, I can’t help but reflect on a brief conversation I had last week while out for lunch.

The rather unexpected topic started because I apologised for not wearing a suit or jacket to my business lunch. As it happened the person I was meeting was equally low key, preferring jeans and a jumper to the traditional suit. No harm done. However, it got me thinking, are suits a thing of the past?

Prior to the pandemic, the wearing of formal business attire was all but compulsory in most legal practices. Did anyone else experience uproar at the prospect of a dress down Friday (what will the clients think!). Despite this, it appears evident that the pandemic has done more than just reduce the commute. It has literally changed the face (well dress code) of the profession.

Now I accept that there will be times when a suit will be necessary – in Court for instance. However, given the number of remote hearings, do people still wear a suit? Client meetings and mediations are also an important event which we should of course dress for appropriately. My query though, what counts as appropriate these days?

During my college and university years I spent time carrying out work experience in local law firms. While this now seems like a distant memory, I do recall there was always chatter about how to dress appropriately. This was always fortified by the story of ‘that one person’ who’s tie was too bright and so was ‘kicked out of Court’. Since entering the legal profession I am pleased to say this is not something I have experienced first-hand. However, pre-pandemic it wasn’t hard to imagine how this could happen.

The pandemic, however, appears to have changed this. With the legal profession being required to get up to speed on all things tech. Video conferencing replacing many in person meetings. Social events being restricted. Hearings and mediations being carried out remotely. The dress code of the profession changed.

As the pandemic continues it seems people have found their happy medium. There are those that prefer to dress smart, even when working from home. Their reasoning, they say it focuses their mind to the task ahead. Equally there are those who find they are more productive when they don’t have to dress in a suit. When there are no meetings to attend, perhaps it really should be a personal choice.

Rather more surprisingly, it appears the dress code for office-based working has also changed. I am yet to see anyone on my commute wearing a full suit and tie. Perhaps we now only need to resort to a jacket on the back of the chair for any unexpected meetings. Otherwise it seems smart casual is the worker’s choice.

It appears this issue isn’t just affecting the legal profession. On speaking with other professionals, I find the topic of business attire comes up often. Many are asking what the ‘done thing’ is these days.

As the pandemic restrictions ease and more people return to the office, it seems the topic of what to wear will continue to affect many of us!

Cara Hough, Partner

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