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  • Writer's pictureChris Mads

A uniform: What do my clothes say about me?

"You look very dapper. Do you always look so smart?"

I had just stood up from the table to say goodbye to the contacts and clients I was having a drink with when this casual observation was directed my way.

The scene was Yumn bar in Croydon's Boxpark and my attire was a three-piece, navy blue, double-breated suit from Next, with striped tie (also Next) and brown monkstrap shoes courtesy of Topman.

Written down like that, the ensemble does seem dressier than the setting requires. But it is not something that occurs to me often; this genuinely is how I dress for work every day.

It is not an office requirement. My colleague to my left was wearing a shirt and jeans, as he does most days. There is a guy two desks down who wears a t-shirt, jeans and DM boots every day. But suits have been my look of choice for a few years now.

It started out as a move to avoid people drawing attention to my age at work. I was a fresh-faced 27-year-old when I first got promoted to News Editor of the newspaper where I worked. After a couple of people mistaking me for a younger, more junior reporter, I adopted a three-piece suit as a way to add some gravitas to my look.

There was another reason: I was at the point of needed to replace most of my work clothes due to wear, but I already had a few complete suits. It seemed like an easy move. Plus, I liked the look. As Oscar Wilde once put it: "You can never be over-dressed or over-educated."

But as I get older and more assured in my role I have started to ask if I still need the suit. My own sense of style has developed and now feels a little cramped by the limitations of a suit.

I am sure there are a range of stylists who would argue a suit can be adapted and suited (pardon the pun) to fit and reflect personal style. But get it wrong and you risk drifting towards peacocking - and that I am keen to avoid.

This got me thinking about the benefits and challenges of wearing a uniform to work. Lots of people do it; we have different varieties of the same outfit which we break out every day.

It is ironic. Many of us go through school in a uniform which we ditch at the first given opportunity - nominally in search of comfort and being cool. But uniforms are not unusally that uncomfortable. Ditching the uniform is a form of teenage self-expression. We want our own clothes to reflect us, not the school.

So why do we go back to uniform as we get older? For the same reason as teachers and parents put us in one when we are young - ease. It is simpler not to have to think about what you wear. But it takes away the fun and creativity of dressing every day.

I still wear the suit a lot to work - but now, each morning, I make sure I choose to do so. But it does mean I have to leave longer to get dressed.


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