What (Not) To Wear

Gordon Comstock’s written a CR article about the creative’s uniform.

He makes a fine point that overdesigned T-shirts, baseball caps and Converse are all very well, but the older you get, the less appropriate and more craven the wearer looks.

Perhaps this contributes to the ageism that happens in creative departments: in an attempt to look younger, the mutton-as-lamb factor can have the opposite effect.

Mr Comstock also laments the fact the we can’t dress in suits a la Mad Men because then we’d become ‘suits’. My experience of this chimes with his suggestion: in 2002, for reasons that are too boring to go into, I acquired several decent suits and shirts. As an admirer of the 1930s, when the working uniform for all men, even those who threw peanuts around at Yankee Stadium, seemed to include a suit and matching trilby, I decided to wear my new threads to the office. After two weeks of enquiries as to whether I had an interview/funeral that day, I just couldn’t be arsed anymore. Even my ECD found humour in the fact that I was wearing a tie.

Having said that, one of my creative colleagues at the time wore a tweed 3-piece suit and polished brogues every day to a total of zero batted eyelids. I’d guess that because he was slightly older and he’d never worn anything else, he didn’t get any ‘amusing’ comments, despite the fact that his behaviour was as childish (if not more so) than anyone else’s.

There could be an element of mirroring body language, where people who meet, and need to suck up to, clients (ie, ‘suits’) dress in the same way they do (ie, suits). Creatives don’t usually have to do this, in fact their creativity is often expressed and appreciated through their ‘creative’ dress sense, and perhaps creatives think they are asserting some kind of authority of their own by not having to bow to the man by wearing his stuffed shirt straitjacket.

Many creatives also like to think of themselves to some degree as artists and artists (post-1980 or so, Gilbert and George excepted) do not wear suits. Of course, ad creatives are not artists, and the attempt to pretend to be so may further undermine our credibility.

It might also be worth bearing in mind the maxim that you should dress for the job you want to have, not the job you do. This might help explain why suits become MDs and Chairpersons, while creatives (and planners, who dip their toes in the same sartorial waters) are either not interested in those positions or realise that the chances of being appointed to them are are minimal. But it may be a self-fulfilling prophecy: David Abbott wore a suit and was AMV’s chairman. No creative suit-wearers since, no creative chairmen since.

Anyway, I think it’s interesting to ask what came first: acting in a less respectable way or being treated with less respect?