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Back to basics for office fashion

The suit is back, on the catwalk and in the office.
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Global Office

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The decade of dressing down is over, and the suit is back in fashion, according to Dylan Jones, editor of men's style magazine GQ.

Once the dotcom uniform of disheveled combat pants and baggy t-shirts were de rigueur for office fashionistas, while the more sartorially conservative settled for the "dress down Friday" defaults of chinos, blazers and preppy polo shirts.

But businessmen are rolling down their sleeves, buttoning up their collars and returning to more traditional tailoring.

"The suit is definitely back," Jones tells CNN.

"If you look at the top end of the industry -- designers like Armani, Dolce and Gabbana, Paul Smith, Prada -- this year was very much about the return of the suit on the catwalk.

"You'll be seeing that influence coming right through down to the high street over the next couple of years. More people today are buying bespoke suits and it's not just people like Richard James and Spencer Hart in Saville Row.

"Most big luxury brand houses now do bespoke tailoring and men want that kind of luxury. They don't want to wear logos, it's very much a case of stealth wealth -- talking to your peer group by little details rather than huge logos."

For Jones, a suit is all about projecting the right image of what a businessman should be about.

"The way people dress at work, particularly the way men dress at work, is fantastically important not only in the way people perceive them but also how they perceive themselves," he says.

"I think people absolutely do make a judgment about you, not just in the first 30 seconds but in the first five seconds.

"If you work for any sort of city institution, if you work in publishing or anywhere in the media these days, I think that people do take you far more seriously if you are wearing a suit.

"If you go into work wearing very casual clothes -- open-necked shirts, t-shirts, shorts, trainers whatever -- in an office situation it definitely affects the way that you work. You work better if you wear a suit. It's as simple as that."

Smart over scruffy

One man in agreement about the superiority of smart over scruffy is Jonathan Croucher, HR director at law firm Taylor Wessing.

"People definitely perceive you differently according to what you wear," says Croucher. "You've certainly got to wear something smart that reflects the fact that you are a lawyer and the kind of professional image that clients generally want to see.

"If you've got people coming in with ripped jeans and shaggy t-shirts then you've got to wonder if you are really fronting the image of a successful European law firm."

"The buzz phrase the last time I sent a message out was that if you look like you're about to do the gardening or go out clubbing then you are almost certainly not in smart casual."

But while Jones believes the threat posed to the suit by dress down Friday culture has misfired, he says its influence will live on.

"Dress down Friday was a good thing because it encouraged men to experiment a little bit more," he explains.

"When they came out of dress down Friday they were a little bit more extravagant in the suits they wore, in the shirts they were buying and particularly in terms of accessories like ties and shoes and cufflinks."

For the fashion-minded then, Jones says, the return of the suit need not mean the end of individual expression or a return to the days of gray commuter conformity.

"What the smart businessman should be wearing this summer," he advises, "is either a dark seeksucker suit or a one-button peak lapel suit."

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