Time to adopt a new creative uniform?

If, God forbid, you find yourself in Soho, on a weekday, without a job, can I suggest you pay a visit to Westminster Public Library?

Not only does it make a nice change from sitting on a bench in Golden Square fondling a claw-hammer and muttering about your erstwhile colleagues, it also holds the entire collection of D&AD Annuals. The ads are of secondary interest, the clothes are fascinating. The jury portraits are an opportunity to observe fashion in motion. See trousers flare and subside, remark the fall and rise of the cardigan, notice how beards seem to break out some years, suddenly and inexplicably, like plague.

This is not insane, Swiss bee-keeper-with-a-tiny-hat, fashionista fashion. It is male dressed-down fashion – scruffy-casual you might say.

Creative departments pioneered the look. Originally it was one of their usps. A corporate profession that eschewed the corporate uniform. A suit says, ‘I am prepared to forgo my individuality for the greater good. I am prepared to suppress those libidinal urges which would cause me to decorate myself with Brillo pads and flashing leds, if I thought it would help me get laid.’

Male advertising creatives, either as a special privilege of technicians in the theatre of desire, or just because they tend to be libidi­nous socio­paths, will not wear the ceremonial collar and leash. We creatives, we are so free.

So when did we become totally neurotic about the way that we look?

You only need to go online. Blogging creatives post constantly about how to dress, hiss snidely about the sartorial inelegance of their creative directors. Offline they’re even bitchier, each one exerting a normalising fashion peer-pressure equivalent to five 16-year-old girls. Is it any wonder that, almost to a man, modern creatives assume another, sadder uniform? The Converse trainers, the sweatshirts and ringspun denim, the over-designed T-⁠shirts. It’s fine in your twenties, but after that it starts to look a bit unsure and furtive. There’s nothing more sinister than a grown man in a teenager’s clothes.

Has no-one else noticed how confident and powerful the creatives in Mad Men look? How dignified? But we can’t wear suits. Suits wear suits. And so we’re forced to ‘dress creative’. And as we get older, this becomes degrading.

In anthropo­logical terms creatives are females, clustered around a single dominant male, the creative director. As such, dress is a part of a misdirected sexual competition. We must display our creative credentials, and these are tied to youth. So next time you see a 45 year-old in a skate T-shirt liken him to the eldest concubine of some vulgar caliph, strutting her sagging stuff in eight inch heels and last year’s pearls. It is partly because this is wholly overt and demeaning that the corporate pin-stripe uniform was developed in the first place.

Is it any wonder that the first thing male creatives do, when they finally become a creative director, when their creativity is no longer in question, is to go out and buy themselves a suit?

Gordon Comstock is an advert­ising copywriter based in London. He also writes the Not Voodoo blog at notvoodoo.blogspot.com


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