Do you remember your first job interview? If you’re anything like me you spent as much time thinking about what to wear as the interview itself.
H&M have tried to lessen that pressure, launching a suit rental service ONE/SECOND/SUIT that allows men to borrow a suit, free of charge for 24 hours, for that all important first impression.
Dress codes for job interviews are incredibly intimidating: you want to impress, blend in and also somehow conjure up the spirit of the organisation with just one outfit. “Research shows that it takes less than one second for an employer to judge your ability based on your appearance,” says Sam Knight, H&M Experience Operations Manager. “It is always better to look over-dressed than under-dressed, as it indicates that you have made an effort,” says Elizabeth Wyse from etiquette experts Debrett’s.
Although the branding around it is powerful the ONE/SECOND/SUIT itself is incredibly simple: a slim fit, midnight blue suit. Attempting to ease myself into it post lockdown is not without its glitches. I had optimistically given my waist measurements as they were before working from home (they have…changed) and I hesitate whilst tying my tie (‘is this the right way to do it?’) but it is all fine. The suit itself feels very “first job” in its sleek fit and shiny hue. Stepping into it I have my own madeleine moment, my body recalling the tight fit of my first work outfit at Marks & Spencer (also in navy blue).
So what’s the best way to style my H&M suit? “It depends what job you are interviewing for as to how you style your suit,” says Guardian Menswear editor Helen Seamons. For a career in a relaxed environment, she suggests wearing a paisley printed shirt or a shirt with a grandad collar to inject some personality into your outfit. Guardian styling editor Melanie Wilkinson adds that even for a more formal setting you can vary your style. “Layer a grey V neck over the white shirt and then add the blazer,” she says.
ONE/SECOND/SUIT feels like both a community-minded and savvy move from H&M. Although a first for the high street, it’s not a new business idea. Charities like Smart Works, Suited for Success and Suited and Booted have been doing similar initiatives for years. Suit retailers have been feeling the effects of lockdown as people worked from home, swapping their office wear for joggers. The UK branch of Brooks Brothers went into administration this month as did US retailers Tailored Brands, owners of Men’s Wearhouse and JoS A.Bank.
At the same time, the rental market for clothes has grown, partly as a reaction to environmental worries around fast fashion and revelations around companies such as Boohoo. This “Uberfication” of suiting seems like a logical step. “Rental services for clothing is an interesting market, and for us this is a first try-out in the men’s section,” says Knight.
Phoebe Gormley, Tailor in Chief at Savile Row tailors’ Gormley & Gormley, thinks that H&M are tapping into the idea of having one perfect suit with the ONE/SECOND/SUIT initiative. The “dream suit” she believes is “for the big days, the interviews, the promotions, the big client meetings, the kind of suit that makes you sit a little taller, hold your head a little higher”.
And you don’t even need to take it the dry cleaners. The next day I just send the suit back in the pre-paid packaging and H&M organises the cleaning and pressing before it is sent out again.