Is David Brent... Stylish Now?

·3-min read
Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

It’s like the Da Vinci Code or something, probably. The bit when all the clues connect and the diabolical truth materialises, and the epiphany is so powerful Tom Hanks needs to lean against a pulpit. But instead of the Vatican, it’s a mid-level paper merchant in Reading, and instead of a cabal of murderous clergyman, it’s David Brent. The hideous truth, dear reader, is that he might actually be quite stylish.

We’re as shook as you. Shook to the core. It has taken a full pair of decades for the truth to out, but out it has. It transpires that Brent was nailing fits in the early 2000s, and there’s nothing we can do to deny it.

Exhibit A: The Sergio Georgini Jacket

Photo credit: BBC/Noah
Photo credit: BBC/Noah

Of course, Neil’s is officially “better” because it’s by Armani, but where society once pilloried replicas, it now champions them. In fact, the trope has been extensively subverted, and Luxury brands (not Armani, to be fair) endeavour to replicate, or moreover, pastiche widely accessible goods. Take a look at Gucci’s forays into luxury merch, for example, or Balenciaga’s eye-wateringly expensive riffs on the running shoe. Now we can intellectualise all we want, but beyond the SG jacket’s prescience and sleeper-hit status, it is also the kind of thing that cool people where today. Especially with a tie. Don’t believe us? Look at Noah’s Autumn/Winter 2021 look book.

Exhibit B: The Heeled Boots

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

In 2002, they were a comedy prop, slapped down on the table in an act of slapstick humiliation. Fast forward 20 beans and now you’re the dweeb if you’re still wearing Oxfords. I mean, you’re not, obviously, they’re lovely shoes that look nice with a suit, but try telling that to disciples of Our Legacy! Try telling that to the Weeknd!

Elsewhere, Brent flexed his muscles in big-trainer-and-stonewash normcore (S02; Ep4.) long before everyone got obsessed with Air Monarchs. Sure, he was following in the big clumpy footsteps of Jerry Seinfeld, but he was doing it decades before all of us (including the designers at Aimé Leon Dore) realised that Seinfeld’s wardrobe was in fact, quite cool.

The truth is, the wardrobe team did everything they could to make sure Brent (and everyone else) didn’t look good, as revealed in our oral history of The Office from the Summer.

Andy Hollis, director of photography: “I thought it was great the way the costumes complimented [the look of the office]. No one really stood out.”

Sarah Tiffin, costume designer: “They obviously wanted it to look real. And so my interpretation of real was using very subdued colours, because they wanted to get over the ordinariness of it, and how kind of hapless people are in these offices.”

Rose Goodhart, wardrobe supervisor: “Often Sarah would say, ‘Oh, no, that looks too nice – change that tie, it goes too well’. She was very strict about making sure it didn't look like a costume. But I think the charity shop stuff helped – it was a long time ago, but even then the ties weren't up to date.”

Christ. He even thrifted, too…

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