The New 9-5: Five Days Of Tailoring

Teo van den Broeke, one of the most stylish men we know, on how a suit makes him feel, why he’s putting comfort first these days and five ways to wear Paul Smith’s Modern Working Wardrobe edit.

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It’s fair to say that the suit has been having something of an existential crisis of late. Even before WFH became the new norm, its place in a seemingly permanently dressed-down world was precarious. Post-pandemic, however, its role has become clearer. There’s a joy in dressing the part again. And opting for a suit at work, rather than the same shirt and chinos combo, commands weight precisely because it’s out of the ordinary nowadays. “Wearing a suit makes me feel held together,” explains style journalist, the new editorial director at Soho House and one of the most stylish men we know, Teo van den Broeke. “Nothing has the power to broaden one's shoulders, nip in one's waist and elegantly wrap one's torso with more alchemic magic than a beautifully tailored suit.”

There’s still, however, a time and a place for it. With increasingly hybrid working schedules (but no less hectic diaries), our working wardrobes need to be more versatile than ever – a single day could involve donning a suit for an important meeting in the morning followed by an informal client catch up over coffee. Tailoring will always play its part in our office dress codes, sure, but there’s also a need to expand our definition of tailoring itself.

That’s where Paul Smith’s Modern Working Wardrobe comes in: an edit of pieces spanning suits, sweaters, workwear-inspired separates, sneakers, technical outerwear and more – essentially, it’s the ultimate smart-casual wardrobe, made for today’s more flexible modes of working.

“When I worked for GQ, I would wear tailoring on a very regular basis, primarily as I was out representing the brand at events and occasions on a very regular basis,” Teo explains. “In my new role at Soho House I'm in the office much more, which means that I'm mixing my tailored garments with more casual pieces like trainers and jersey sweaters. There's a keener focus on comfort, which I'm totally down with.” To show us how it’s done, we enlisted his help to style and model our AW22 Modern Working Wardrobe edit. Here’s five versatile ways to wear tailoring, no matter what the working day throws at you.

8am: The WFH Coffee Run

It should be apparent by now that the pandemic has altered our office working patterns for good. Working from home is here to stay and, while a hybrid working arrangement has its myriad benefits (including, according to recent studies, increasing productivity) it can be easy to fall into the trap of donning your comfiest loungewear and failing to leave the house at any point during the day.

Scheduling a solo trip to your local coffee shop in the morning is one of the simplest ways to trick your brain out of these sedentary patterns – and it’ll provide a much-needed hit of caffeine before that 9am meeting. Plus, by actually getting dressed into something marginally smarter than sweatpants, you’ll be presentable for those early-morning Zoom calls. But what to wear? “[There’s] nothing like a brushed suede shirt jacket to instantly smarten up your working from home uniform of classic cargo pants and T-shirt,” Teo says.

11am: The Boardroom Meeting

Just as the days of clocking in at your cubicle at 9am every day are gone, so too are the days that a formal suit is required at the office. But there are those instances and occasions on which you’ll need to put the best version of yourself forward – and, yes, as much as we’d like to imagine a world where people are not judged on their appearances, that best version of yourself includes the best version of your wardrobe. “If you’re in a serious meeting you need to wear a suit,” Teo says.

But that doesn’t mean you need to waltz into the boardroom in a tails and your shiniest patent Oxfords. For autumn, a flannel suit in a rich colour – such as this forest green – feels like an especially considered choice. Bending the rules, though, should be approached with caution (this is not the time for slogan tees or short shorts). Instead, take Teo’s advice and opt for more relaxed, but still refined accompaniments. “It’s possible to loosen the look up a touch by teaming your classic two piece with softer, sportier pieces like a knitted polo and low-slung tennis shoes.”

2pm: The Working Lunch

Business lunches are no longer a staid affair – but they’re also no longer two-hour-long conclaves fuelled by a couple of bottles of the establishment’s finest Bordeaux. In our modern age of expenses apps, you are likely to be expected to actually get some actual work done on your working lunch (and provide the receipts). What you wear will depend largely upon the nature of your appointment (and, perhaps, both your profession and the restaurant in question), but even if you’re meeting with clients, these days it doesn’t mean a suit is a necessity.

“When you’re finished with your board meeting and you’re ready for lunch, swap out your suit trousers for something more comfortable and switch up your knit for a crew neck rather than a polo,” Teo advises. By shedding the suit trousers but retaining the blazer, you’re still suitably smart but the cords, pastel sweater and clean-cut trainers tone down the formality of proceedings a tad. 

7pm: The After-Hours Supper

Dressing for the office can present its own difficulties, sure, but dressing for dinner throws up a few more variables to contend with. There’s the nature of the dinner to start with. Is it a date? With colleagues? Or a dinner party with friends? Then there’s also small matters like the occasion and location to consider. But if you stick to a fairly rudimentary formula of mixing softer, casual pieces with smarter, tailored ones and swapping your work shoes for something a touch more rugged, you can’t go too far wrong.

“Tailored separates will look evening supper-ready worn with understated weekend accoutrements,” Teo advises. But what sorts of off-duty essentials should you be reaching for? “A padded gilet is ace as the weather begins to cool and a pair of suede chukka boots will bring a countrified grounding to the look,” he advises.

9pm: The Business Trip

Work trips can be a tricky business to navigate – at least when it comes to the wardrobe part. You need to look the part, especially if you’re heading straight to meetings when you land, but comfort should also be front of mind. It’s good news, then, that that’s precisely why Paul Smith’s A Suit To Travel In was developed. “A crease-resistant, easily packable suit will be your best friend on a business trip,” Teo says. “Opt for one in classic navy blue and team with extra-comfortable knitted separates (a Paul Smith Signature Stripe polo is a good place to start).”

Tailored with minimal structure and padding as well as a drawstring waist that won’t pinch on long flights, A Suit To Travel In is woven using special quick-recovery high-twist yarns that reduce wrinkling (you know, the sort that inevitably appear when you’re squished sardine-like in a cramped metal tube hurtling through the sky at high speeds) to ensure you disembark as sharp-looking as you did when you set off.

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