City slickers turn country gents (and ladies) as heritage-inspired dressing brings office wear down to earth. Stephanie Smith takes a look at the trend.
Tailoring is not for everyone. In fact, there’s nothing worse that a suit for many of us, whether it’s a jacket with matching trousers, skirt or a shift dress. We feel trussed up, confined, old fashioned.
And yet tailoring has been experiencing a renaissance, not least among many younger men, who prefer to leave the Clarkson jeans and shirt look to their father.
So, inspired by this backlash of smartness, across the High Street, tailoring is helping smarten up styles of dressing more usually thought of as casual, off-duty, weekend or leisure looks. Sportswear once meant gym and track only, then it came to mean activewear-meets-leisure wear, and now – well, it’s got smart. Baartmans and Siegel, for example, has just launched a sleek menswear collection for Marks & Spencer, with pieces inspired by cuts traditionally associated with suiting. Soon, we’ll all be hitting the boardroom in track pants and trainer shoes.
And yet there is a style of clothing that has been bridging those gaps between office and weekend for an impressively long time. For men especially, of all ages, country style has long offered a route into tailoring that doesn’t have to mean overly smart, or trying too hard, or “I am a young (or old) executive”.
In recent years, the City has taken to introducing aspects of country wear into its once regimented wardrobe, replacing pinstripes with a colour palette inspired by the earthy tones of rural dressing, greens, heathers, browns, berry shades and slate blue.
It allows for a polished and sophisticated look, with none of the arrogant city slicker connotations. So professionals are trading their black, navy and steel grey suits for heritage style tweeds in autumnal hues, bringing a pastoral aesthetic into the concrete, steel and mirror glass walls of the city.
And it’s happening the other way around too, in that cuts and styles more associated with modern city suiting are being adopted by country style design, the slim fit, slightly shrunken look blazers and chinos and cords given a modern-day update in a skinny fit for a contemporary silhouette.
Three-piece suits in woollens and tweeds, perhaps with a check, offer a classic look that now works for the office. Both men and women can adopt it, or test the water gently, perhaps by introducing a tweed waistcoat to their usual tailored pieces, bearing in mind that this will work better with woven wool suits rather than with polyester ones.
A tan pair of brogues will finish of the ensemble. Women should try brogued heeled boots or neat flats, and think silk or print shirts, and fine knitwear pieces.
It’s all about a return to traditional fabrics and craftsmanship, introducing texture and that feeling of reliability, comfort and trust. It also reflects the way we live today, as social media and the internet has shifted from a 9 to 5, five days a week working pattern to a more fluid timescape, when job, leisure and socialising all blend in a way that would have been frowned upon and resisted in the past.
Country wear has always been a blend of working meets leisure garb. And, as it turns out, it’s perfect for the way we live now.