Joanna Williams

Lindsay Hoyle is right to give scruffy MPs a dressing down

Labour MP Tracy Brabin (Parliament TV)

MPs are making their way back to Parliament with an order from Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle ringing in their ears. In the post-Zoom world, they must smarten up their appearance. ‘Members are expected to wear business attire in and around the Chamber,’ Hoyle reminded them. 

‘Jeans, chinos, sportswear or any other casual trousers are not appropriate. T-shirts and sleeveless tops are not business attire,’ continued his memo. ‘Men are encouraged to wear a tie, and jackets must be worn.’

Good for you, Mr Speaker! Perhaps you could send a similar directive to the rest of the country too. After 18 months of working from home, it’s not just MPs who have forgotten how to dress. Jeans and hoodies, track suits and athleisure have replaced formal business wear. It was reported last week that Marks & Spencer, purveyor of men’s suits since 1939, no longer stocks this traditional business attire in over half of its stores. Demand for the matching two-piece was just too small to justify the rack space.

A new, more subtle, reverse snobbery has crept into the way we dress.

Both men and women have clearly used lockdown as an opportunity to ditch stuffy workwear associated with the office. Trousers or skirts with actual buttons, buckles and zips, have, it seems, been too much for many of us. But the end of business attire should trouble us and Sir Lindsay nails why.

His dress code memo prompts MPs to remember: ‘The way in which you dress should demonstrate respect for your constituents, for the House and for the institution of Parliament in the life of the nation.’ How we look reflects our attitude to the job we do. Looking smart says we not only take ourselves seriously, but our work and our colleagues too.

Dressing up for work marks a distinction between our public and private lives.

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