For decades we’ve been labouring under the misapprehension that to get on in life, we need to wear a suit. Not just any old suit, but preferably a dark three piece one with pin stripes and, if you work in the City of London, one that won’t get you much change out of a thousand quid should you be fortunate enough to have a shiny credit rating to wave at the tailor in a surge of generosity to those less fortunate than yourself. ‘Suits you sir.” You bet it does.
The business ladies amongst us have also signed up to the suit wearing fraternity, adorning the standard gentlemen’s attire with shoulder pads, high heels and all kinds of appendages discreetly buttoned up behind the waistcoat, so I’m led to believe. There’s no getting away from it: if you want to get on, get it on or just get off with someone down the office corridor, the suit is the dress code of choice.
‘Dress to Impress’ has been superseded in these times of industrial recession by ‘Dress to Invest’. Every social transaction has been been loaded with investment imperatives too: it’s impossible to just chew gum in a street without some bright spark asking you whether you want to buy his recently patented dental shield designed to stop gum from sticking to your teeth.
So, up until the recent election of the leader of the Labour Party in the UK, things were looking pretty dour for those of us for whom the suit had become wearisome in its insistent ‘there is no alternative’ mantra. We had worn our three pieces with a shrugging reluctance, sometimes pretending to ourselves in front of the mirror, that we did actually look rather fetching in our pallid 45 quid suit from Primark, with its wafer thin lining and fragile buttons which would fall apart in your fingers at the slightest hint of a physical tussle with them.
And then along came Jeremy Corbyn. Rising from the obscurity of the Labour Party bank benches, he rode a tsunami of public opinion which has lifted him into the upper echelons of political power. All without wearing anything that resembles a three piece dark blue pin striped suit. In fact, anything that resembles any kind of power dressing at all.
Dress to impress? Not a chance. Dress to invest? The jury’s still out on that one but one thing we can be certain about that Jeremy’s dress code of jumpers knitted by his mum, Man from Havana jacket and trousers, tie-dye shirt and shoes which resemble small tug boats is that he has done the rest of us a huge favour, liberating us from the tyranny of the suited, booted and bolloxed brigade who have run the Labour Party for the last 20 years.
He still has to win an election of course and it maybe that the lady and gentleman on top of the Clapham Omnibus are so appalled by his dress code that they refuse him the next opportunity on the journey to make British politics more civilised: but for many of us unreconstructed gauche layabouts, passing the Jeremy Corbyn dress test is the first test that Jeremy Corbyn has passed with flying colours (which match his shoes, naturally.)