Style Column: Matching Your Wardrobe To Your Job

Forget new responsibilities. With a new job comes a fresh wardrobe upgrade, says our regular style columnist Jeremy Langmead 

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By the time you read this, I will have finished my year-long sojourn in the art world and returned once more to the cashmere-lined comfort of the fashion one.

Working at Christie’s gave me an intriguing insight into a wheeling, dealing, gavel-wielding world where triptychs by Bacon sell for £92.5m, abstracts by Barnett Newman go for £55m a pop and a 4m-high stainless steel orange balloon dog by Jeff Koons gets snapped up for £38m. All in all, it made a suede jacket by Saint Laurent look affordable.

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The differences between the art and fashion industries are not as great as you may imagine: one reason why the two frequently join forces for events during Frieze weeks in London and New York.

Both worlds obviously applaud the aesthetic, work with form, colour and fabric, cherish the thrill of the new and have a respect for the classics, they both revolve around sensitive artists guided by hard-nosed businessmen, and, yes, the egos can be gargantuan on both sides.

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Ultimately, it turns out, the fashion world is the more democratic one, however.

The big bucks of the art world are in the hands of around 200 people across the globe who swap Warhols and Rothkos with the same ease of hand the rest of us used to exchange Top Trump cards in the school playground. Most artists tend not to offer fans diffusion lines or entry point accessories. (Although some are catching on to the idea: you can now buy iron-on spots from Damien Hirst’s website.)

With dress codes, too, there is a sizeable difference. Within the art world, especially with the auction houses, the suit reigns supreme. And the differences between all the suits on display in the world’s auction rooms are subtle; there are only nuanced nods to some of the trends from the last few years: jackets are a little shorter than of old, the blues worn are definitely brighter and lighter, and some of the younger specialists will forgo a tie — much like the main contenders did in May’s General Election.

But that is usually as far as it goes. Galleries are a tad more irreverent: a jacket and jeans combo (mostly black or navy) is popular and sneakers – in pristine condition – are not unheard of.

So, like all of us when we change jobs, I’m going to have to rejig my working wardrobe a little.

I can’t pretend this is a task I’m dreading. Buying some new clothes while pulling a very serious face and pretending it’s a drag, and telling my fashion-indifferent partner that my contract stipulates I don’t wear anything without a designer label attached, is a cheering prospect indeed. In fact, it’s a task I began before the ink was even dry on my new contract.

The truth is I don’t really need to change my wardrobe at all.

I’m not going to ditch all my Thom Sweeney tailoring for Agi & Sam shibori jumpsuits; nor swap my John Lobbs for some Lanvin sports sandals. But it will be nice to loosen up a bit. I’ll be able to wear my new Thom Browne navy chinos with his signature four horizontal white stripes just above the knee on one leg without being asked if I spilt Tipp-Ex on myself (does anyone still use Tipp-Ex?); I can wear the pea-green Common Projects sneakers I mentioned last month without getting quizzical looks on the Christie’s staircase; cheerily pop on my Michael Bastian cotton sweater with the red intarsia scorpions on the front and not be mistaken for a member of a triad; and wear a dégradé jacket without being asked if the colour washed out in the rain.

What I do want to splash out on this summer – and I’ve yet to find the perfect example – is a suit with a neat fitted jacket (single or double-breasted) worn with surprisingly loose pleated trousers: a Twenties feel, I suppose. This straddles perfectly been my former art-world career and my resurrected fashion one.

The two that caught my eye recently are the ones David Bowie wore on his 1983 Serious Moonlight tour (but not in those early Eighties peachy/pastel colours) and Nicky Haslam’s very debonair double-breasted version in a recent episode of Who’d be a Billionaire on Sky Living (I know). If anyone spies the perfect one, let me know.

Meanwhile, I hope to see you all near a catwalk very soon. It’s quite exciting to be returning to a world where I can actually buy something.

Alas, the only Bacon I could afford at Christie’s was from Ocado.

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MORE LANGMEAD:

How To Wear A White Suit
Why Flip-Flops Should Be Banned Now
Jeremy Langmead On Wardrobe Management
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