'I feel too Toronto': Suit sales slumping as workplaces evolve
WATERLOO – There was a time when men would wear suits just about everywhere.
Now, the suit is losing its appeal for the many and being forced to reinvent itself for the few.
Gary Kenning may not be the face of the tech industry, but his outfit embodies its spirit.
"Everybody wears the same thing, so you're always dressed for, not only the job that you have, but also the job that you want," he says.
At the company he works for, Cloudwifi, golf shirts are the standard. When partners come to visit they dress down, not up, for the occasion.
"He was wearing a sport coat and stuff and right away within 30 seconds he said 'I'm overdressed, I feel too Toronto right now,'" Kenning recalls about one person.
Call it too Toronto, too New York, or just too stuffy.
Tyler Swabey manages memberships for Communitch, meeting hundreds of prospective billion-dollar companies every month.
When he spoke to CTV News, he was wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs cardigan.
"Save for one guy on our team who came from government in Ottawa, he's in a suit just about every day, you won't really see any suits at all around here," he says.
The trend isn't only in tech, either.
In 2016, investment bank JP Morgan told its 237,000 employees around the globe that suits would be optional from then on.
Goldman Sachs made a similar call in March.
Suit sales have been dropping since 2007 and that's been reflected in the price: a suit's consumer price index, or the dollar value put on a suit, has fallen about one per cent per year for more than a decade.
In Waterloo, Scott Puncher, co-owner of Paul Puncher Menswear, admits he still loves the suit. He's been in the field for 30 years.
"There's still some people that wear them religiously, but not the way they used to," he says. He feels that casual Fridays, which were brought about in the 80s and 90s, began stripping the suit of its power.
He says he isn't against casual Fridays, but says nothing beats the suit.
When he began selling menswear, Puncher says 80 per cent of his sales were to business professionals, compared to 20 per cent for special occasions like weddings.
Since, that figure has flipped.
"My main store now has 35 per cent of its floor space to sportswear, whereas even 10 years ago, it was 100 per cent suits and sport coats," he says.
The store now has a 1,500 square foot addition to make room for more sportswear.
The suitscape has changed for women, too. When once they might have stood out at work for not being in a suit, now they have a bigger seat at the table, thanks in part to equal fashion footing.
"As a female at my company, I never feel pressured to dress a certain way to get respect," says Janine Scott, a marketing associate at EnPowered.
"I'm respected based on the work that I contribute to the team."
While more women have been rocking suits on the red carpet, sales of suits for women have fallen by half in the last five years.