Dear Boris Johnson, the suit is on its last legs and I hold you personally responsible – Aidan Smith

There isn’t usually much “d’accord” between Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron but there seems to be agreement on this: President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine rocks a mean hoodie.

Boris Johnson is helping to kill off the men's suit (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson is helping to kill off the men's suit (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Just in the past few days these two have aped the style of 2022’s Man of the Year (the contest is already over). Boris was on the beach in Blackpool, apparently jogging, though he looked more like he was about to suffer a seizure.

The fact he was at the seaside made me think of the opening titles of Monty Python’s Flying Circus where a wretched fellow in rags would stagger out of the shallows. It was a close-run thing but Boris in his hoodie, in a rare moment of sartorial success, was the better-attired.

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Poor Boris. Can’t do weekend casual, can’t do suits. When he wears a suit, which is most of the time, it’s a disaster. Suits have just been declared, if not quite dead, then seriously out of fashion. I hold our PM personally responsible for this. It’s happened on his watch so I hope Sue Gray is on the case.

Let’s consider the evidence. The sleeves of Boris’ jackets are too long. I’m suspecting this may be a legacy from childhood. Perhaps, amid the casual cruelties of boarding school, there was a concession: his blazer could be generously cuffed so, when the family saloon offloaded the hamper, the 14 teddy bears and sped off, his little hands could grasp the cloth and he might just have been able to hold it all together for the start of a new term.

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The trouser lengths are awry as well. It’s clear that Boris fantasises about being very, very tall, and almost two years of standing next to Chris Whitty for those pandemic pronouncements may have convinced him that he is, or how he could be. I think when Whitty’s been speaking at his lectern Boris has sneaked across, measured the Chief Medical Officer’s inside leg and forwarded it to his tailor as his own. Either that or he’s used the inside leg of Hugh Pym, the BBC’s giant thermometer of a health correspondent.

But what’s worse: not caring how one dresses – the Boris way – or trying too hard like Macron? The French president looks terrific in a suit but, in the wake of universal admiration for Zelensky – and confirmation that he’s the biggest man-crush on the planet – Macron, in a fit of jealousy, has attempted to copy what he possibly views as the embattled hero of Kyiv’s “combat chic”.

The last thing on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's mind right now is what he wears but France's Emmanuel Macron is copying his look (Picture: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/UPI/Shutterstock)

The hoodie comes not from the Champs Elysees equivalent of the old Army & Navy Store I used to frequent on Leith Walk – the decommissioned gas-mask bags made great satchels – but is up-to-the-minute issue for France’s Air Parachute Commando No 10, go-to guys for counter terrorism. Of which, needless to say, the president is not a member.

For this much-ridiculed image Macron messed up his hair and sprouted stubble but somebody in the Elysee Palace should have told him that Zelenksy can look a bit dishevelled because there’s a lot in his in-tray right now and the army green he favours is to help him dodge Russian death squads.

This reminds me of a Ronald Reagan clanger when former astronaut John Glenn was a political rival. Irked by the timing of the movie The Right Stuff – in which the first American to orbit Earth was portrayed by Ed Harris – and the boost this could give Glenn in the polls, Reagan dismissed him as “just a celluloid hero”. Aides had to point out to Reagan that The Right Stuff was the real stuff and when he’d triumphed in those cowboy shootouts it had just been acting.

Now, Boris’s shambolic appearance has been a PR nightmare for the suit but two years of Covid and WFH have done it absolutely no favours. While working from home, it’s stayed in the wardrobe and probably doesn’t fit anymore. The Office of National Statistics, in their annual way-we-live-now survey, have just removed the suit from the list of goods used to track inflation. It had been an ever-present since records began in 1947.

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Inflation around the stomach area has led to elasticated waistbands becoming more widespread (to cover up the wide spread). So what else do we want in the new uniform for the office? Please, not hoodies. Men I’d least like to see in one: Sir Alex Ferguson, Gordon Brown, my editor.

Jacob Rees-Mogg? Now that would be funny, not least because he wears a suit well and you imagine he has one for trips to the tip. He’s relaxed in his chosen clobber which is more than can be said for David Cameron who always seems so stiff dressed down – the same mostly black ensemble for chillaxing in the Cotswolds, struggling to write his memoirs and killing the career of trendy band the xx – but when he recently donned a tartan fleece he was teased for resembling a ticket tout. Maybe Dave and Boris were happiest in their Bullingdon Club tails. For both it appears to have been downhill ever since.

For the rest of us, the loss of the suit’s official status has sparked nostalgia: first one owned, the one you got married in, the one that makes you laugh the most – and, ludicrously in the 1980s, the one you put on after a day’s work to visit a wine bar.

Smart-casual is a terrifying concept. All the more so now Matt Hancock has ruined the polo-neck jumper for ever.

I think the suit’s demise is only temporary. It’ll return because it’s such an easy option; men won’t want the what-to-wear dilemma which confronts women every day. But if it does come back and Boris is still around, he’ll definitely need a better tailor.

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