On Tightening One’s Belt

James Cook of Turnbull & Asser

If this interview of James Cook, the bespoke manager of Turnbull & Asser, can be trusted, economic downturns turn out to be booms not just for bankruptcy lawyers but high-end conservative tailoring.   According to Cook (who, incidentally, wears his jacket sleeves unusually short—perhaps to show off T&A’s best work: their shirts?):

In the 90′s, many Americans came into Turnbull & Asser in London and every single person was talking of the dot com craze and how they would never have to buy a tie again. They were only ordering shirts. And then there was a massive crash, and everyone went back to a tie because the Bank Manager showed up, or the Finance Minister. Gradually people started wearing less and less ties again until this recession.

You notice in this recession that people are dressing up again. Every time that [an economic downturn] happens, people have to get suits and shirts. They have to sharpen themselves up again.

Everyone forgets about history; the shirt, the tie and the suit never change. I don’t know why people think it is okay to be casual at work…. [I]f I show up and my bank manager isn’t suitably attired, I am not going to trust that person with my money. Same thing with my lawyer.

6 Responses to “On Tightening One’s Belt”

  1. Grrg September 3, 2008 at 2:30 am #

    “Everyone forgets about history; the shirt, the tie and the suit never change.”

    Hunh? If one remembers history, one knows that the suit and tie DO change, and HAVE changed, and WILL change. There was a time before the suit, and there will be a time after the suit. It is the propagandists of “timeless style” and “permanent fashion” who indulge in a willed ignorance of the history of dress.

  2. Jeff the Baptist September 3, 2008 at 10:36 am #

    “If I show up and my bank manager isn’t suitably attired, I am not going to trust that person with my money. Same thing with my lawyer.”

    Yes, but if you do the same with an engineer or IT personnel, you’ll know that you’re talking to a management functionary. He won’t actually be doing your work. He probably doesn’t even know how to do your work because he’s passed his technical half-life and just pushes accounting numbers around all day. You’re talking to someone coiffed and dressed to deal with the customer, who probably will agree to anything you ask no matter how technically preposterous and then will bleed you dry trying to give it to you. You’re talking to the wrong person. But you don’t know that because the suit says he’s important.

    The reason people go out and buy new suits in every down turn is that they have go on job interviews to get new jobs. Their old suit is moth-eaten, stained with food from their cousin’s wedding, or just doesn’t fit any more. They need a new one as the suit is expected. Once they get the job, they’ll go back to khakis and polo shirts. They’ll buy a new suit in 6-10 years when the business cycle repeats.

  3. Fleet Admiral September 3, 2008 at 7:38 pm #

    Is it any wonder? You dress like a slob (or yob if you’re British), you do business like a slob.

  4. La BellaDonna September 16, 2008 at 7:30 pm #

    Speaking of professionalism, that’s, ah, a lovely shade of blue which Mr. Cook is wearing. I’d wear it like a shot, myself – preferably in a nice wool crepe. I’m just a little surprised to see Mr. Cook in it.