Geoff Knott
Suited and Booted

I was chatting to a group of church leaders in east London recently and they mentioned an initiative called Suited & Booted.

Run out of the appropriately named St Andrews-by-the-Wardrobe church in the City of London, Suited & Booted is a charity that helps vulnerable, unemployed and low-income men into employment by providing interview clothing and interview advice.

Their clients may be struggling and in need of support, both financial and practical. They may not have the means to wear suitable clothes to ‘look the part’ and therefore are unable to give themselves the best possible chance at a job interview. Suited & Booted gives clients suitable clothing – perhaps a formal suit or a smart casual style – and then guides them through the process of a job interview. This gives them better prospects of success and contributes to their general self-confidence and self-esteem.

Martin’s story is typical...

“I spent the last 20 years in prison. Suited & Booted got me a suit and shoes for my parole board, I went on my parole board and looked really smart, the panel could see the change in me over the years, and I could feel the change in me.

“My life was always in the care system from the age of 12 till I was 18. I experienced some abuse that got swept under the carpet. I had become very bitter and discontented with my life. It took a toll on me when I reached the age when I became I man. That’s why I ended up in prisons.

 “Today my life is very different. I am 50 years of age now, I have moved out of the probation hostel and am living independently. I do voluntary work for Suited & Booted, who have given me the start I needed in life, responsibility and hope. Today I am helping people just like me and hope they can go on to have better lives.”

Clients are referred to Suited & Booted by public agencies and charities such as Jobcentre Plus, the NHS, Crisis and London Probation when they have the offer of a job interview or work placement.

The first 30 seconds of an interview are crucial as employers make up their minds about potential candidates very quickly. Getting appearance and presentation right are vital to being seriously considered for the job.

Suited & Booted provides a welcoming, friendly environment where clients come in for a dressing session as well as some thoughtful advice, interview training and support.  Volunteers help them find a good quality suit that fits well and looks great. They work together to find the right accessories such as ties, cufflinks and shoes.

Clients keep their suit and accessories and are also assisted when they get their new job by receiving a few extras, such as shirts and ties, to support their working wardrobe.

Could this be an extra service churches could provide alongside Job Clubs or Foodbanks? How many unused suits, shirts, etc., might there be in the congregation’s wardrobes? Might some local businesses contribute to this as well?