The Indicator from Planet Money - RIP Business Suit?

For 400 years, the business suit has been a staple in men's fashion...then the pandemic struck. Today on the show, the end of the business suit?

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Content Keywords: business suit indicator indicator professor businesses

the last 6 months have been incredibly hard on retailers and Taylor Brooks Brothers. J.Crew Barney's. These are just a few of the many many retailers that have declared bankruptcy. And of course all the companies have something in common. They make fancy clothes for the office all the working from home in the zoom calls have changed the way we dress. In fact sales of business suits have been down 75% compared to last year that is an indicator for today 75% sales of men's suits are down 75% I mean overall sales of clothing or actually up since the pandemic. We're just not buying suits.

This is indicator from Planet Money. I'm Cardiff Garcia and I'm Stacey Vanek Smith today on the show. The Business dude has been the ubiquitous uniform for white-collar Professionals for a long time. Really really long time is it turns out today on the show is the business suit Dead?

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Peter Obi is a professor of management at Babson College and she has a lot of her students will come to her, you know before they're interviewing for their first internships our first job and they will ask her like what should I wear this job. So she thinks about the question of like how to look professional and professional Norms a lot. When I asked what is the most of the time does a professional everyone says the business to eventually come from also she herself had a special relationship with the business suit because before she was in Academia Gina work in banking and I absolutely were businesses because you know when we have a tailored suits in a white man, you play golf

They were beautiful face and they were tailored. It was by putting on a Crown almost. I felt special. I felt you don't have my uniform. This is this is my beautifully tailored uniform and people perceived me differently and she loved researching things. And so I'm thinking like wheat, why is the business suit the thing that we all wear to work? Like what about kilts or robes or why not something else? So he's going to tracing the business suit back through time all the way back to its origins in the 1600. It turns out we have Charles II to thank for the suit, he was the King of England 400 years ago became king the fashion in the Royal courts was like a very very over-the-top men were these huge poofy wigs? And they had these big sleeves on their clothes and crazy colors because dye was very expensive.

It was a sign you were wealthy men wear high-heeled shoes all those over the top news in the world where it's it was it was starting to buy some problems for Charles?

Saying that the royal family they were morally corrupt are overly decadent to try to prevent him dolphin and people in the world part as more of a strained back then were made from wool instead of silk. Maybe the other colors were still kind of like Easter egg colors just all over the place. This was still super restrained at the time. So the tales on the codes when Charles II and eventually the colors of people wearing suits became more muted. I like we can't remember the last time I saw someone in his suit and Kenobi says she can't remember the last time she wore one I have on a workout start yoga pants.

But you know what typically going to work I wouldn't have this on Steam for me.

Oh, it's so nice. So yeah, I kind of like it. Actually there's been a lot of talk on social media and in all these articles and think pieces about how much people have been loving dressing down lately living that yoga pants life. Right and it's not like working from home is going away millions of offices are closed through the rest of the year and Beyond and even for people who do go back to the office the settings probably going to be pretty different probably fewer people some partitions maybe less reason to suit up there also says that now the people have tasted this yoga pants life going back is going to be hard. There's something to say about the sigh of relief the collective sigh of relief. I think the world had that tells you that there was Labor associated with getting dressed.

Tina says it for now. She is advising her students to still put in that labor for job interviews in banking and consulting jobs or at least take care of the top part that people are going to see on Zoom suit jacket suit jacket exactly. And you know, this dude has revived 400 years of change electricity the combustion engine the internet two World Wars, the suit has survived all that is working from home really going to be the thing that takes it down death by yoga pants. Seriously toys yoga pants that killed the facepalm on the suit as King Kong, but you know, I don't know Cardiff because the business has been around as you say for a very long time for 400 years. I mean things change and maybe this is the business suits swan song like maybe it's time for us to start wearing other kinds of clothes suits forever, right? I put this all to Tina and she said,

So if you want to know the fate of the suit right now, you got to talk to people who work in fashion. Right? Look at Fashion person or a twin Watcher about what we're saying from Shoppers and what designers are doing and my title is the fashion guy ABC's red carpet coverage. So he wear suits basically all the time or at least he used to now she's wearing pajamas, you know, like the rest of us but like fashionable fast like designer pajamas every time I walk by one closet. I have all my suits saying hello. Do you remember me put this question to Lawrence and his closet full of lonely suits that suit has basically been like the thing that the iconic thing we wear to work for hundreds of years.

I don't know like do you think is the suit Dead is there a permanent shift isn't dead but

The number of Suits a man need his basically put on pause think though that they're going to be fewer if you were occasions to wear a suit professionally. He says the suit is going to hang on but probably in a much smaller way. I mean if people are going to the office three days a week instead of five, they can probably just get away with having and wearing fewer suits is Lawrence's the restrictive kind of labor-intensive clothes that we used to wear like suits and skinny pants and jackets and high heels and neckties. He just doesn't see us jumping back into those. He says that it's just not the direction the designers or Shoppers are moving in right now. Everything is up to relax. I don't know maybe maybe the leisure suit will come back.


You know when something like just trying to hit like deal with How Deeply offended you, you know when you know when something's coming.

Some things have gone since you let it go. Sometimes it says it's good to say goodbye. Okay, I will let go of my affection for the leisure suit. I'll let it go.

This episode of the indicator was produced by Jamila Huxtable and Darian Woods. It was fact-checked by Sean. Saldania, the indicators edited by Patty Hirsch and is the production of NPR

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