Thursday, 23 April 2009

Men in suits

Why is it that men in positions of authority are always expected to wear suits? Do we really believe they're more knowledgeable and responsible if they're wearing a matching jacket and pants, usually rumpled and ill-fitting, usually from a cut-price chain store?

I'm forever bemused by those line-ups of politicians, every one of them in their obligatory suits, except for the more informally dressed women. The chance of their all being honest, principled and conscientious is practically zero, yet there they are in their mandatory uniforms, trying to convince us otherwise.

Like most people, I imagine, I judge others by what they say and do, not by whether they're wearing a suit or some kind of official dress. I would draw the line at visible unkemptness, but why should casual clothing make me suddenly doubt someone's ability to draw up a will or give me a bank account or sell me insurance?

Even male newsreaders wear suits, as if an earthquake will turn out to be a giant hoax if they give us the news wearing a T shirt and chinos. Even hotel receptionists wear suits, as if that will magically turn a scruffy flea-box into a de-luxe, penthouse suite. Who are they kidding?

I'm proud to say I've only possessed one suit in my entire life, strictly for the more pompous occasions when I was a local journalist. I just don't see the point. They obliterate your true identity and turn you into a featureless clone.

I envy women's freedom to dress more flexibly, in clothes that reflect their personality and are much more fun. The male suit is a curious anachronism that should be consigned to history.

18 comments:

Aidan said...

My wife fancies men in suits and she loves nothing better than buying me new shirts and ties. That's a reason to keep the suit on though I do agree with the essence of what you are saying. Suits are easy too, no challenge in choosing what to wear in the morning.

conortje said...

too true - I am always attempting to dress smart at work without going the suit route. Funnily the IT sector seems to have generally avoided the whole suit=ability farce.

Having said all that, I must also admit to having a thing for men in suits... :-)

Nick said...

Aidan - A lot of men say that, suits make dressing so easy, but isn't that just the lazy way out? I have to admit though I find a woman in a (well-cut) suit very attractive....

Conor - That's a case in point, isn't it, how the IT crowd can wear anything they like and you still assume they're 100% computer experts? Sorry, though, the erotic appeal of male suits escapes me completely....

Thriftcriminal said...

And the issue with lazy is?

The suit has been re-inforced so many times by film and all of the iamges we are bombarded with. It's branding in essence.

I'm with you on the whole judging by actions, not appearance, but by the same token should you not turn a blind eye to the suit and pay attention to what the wearer is up to. After all if you succeeded in getting him out of his suit into a pretty frock, I'm sure his actions would remain unchanged, be they true or otherwise.

Grannymar said...

I have to admit I like a well cut and pressed suit!

I always wore a suit to work, a) because I like them and b) out of respect for those who had to look at me all day. Finally c) as a respect for the company for which I worked and represented to the public that I came in contact with.

Nick said...

Thrifty - By lazy I just meant there's no need to choose clothes that express your identity, you can simply look like everyone else. And sure, at the end of the day what matters is a guy's behaviour and not his clothes. But a man in a suit is saying his appearance is the thing to trust, not his behaviour.

Wisewebwoman said...

The most brilliant people I have worked with always developed their own style of dressing and that did not include suits, whether male or female.
Then I guess I'm blessed as I didn't come into contact with too many bureaucratic minds with their obsession with the 3 piecer.
That said, I just about swoon for a man in a tux.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

Grannymar - Ah, the ideal employee completely in tune with the company's dress code! What's that, out of respect for those who had to look at you? Surely you would have looked wonderful in anything (well, almost anything)?

Nick said...

www - You swoon over a man in a tux? Goodness, it's all coming out in the comments today! Indeed, why shouldn't people just develop the style of dress that is right (and flattering) for them? Personally I often find unusual but stylish clothes more impressive than an off-the-peg suit.

Suburbia said...

I think men wear them to make themselves feel important rather than for us onlookers. Power dressing is pretty powerful, it does make you feel important, even if you're not!

Speaking from the female point of view though, sometimes a particular man in a suit really 'hits the spot'! (sorry)

Nick said...

Suburbia - Not sure about wanting to feel important, I think men mainly wear suits because they're expected to. I think what makes men feel important is all the status stuff - high salary, big office etc.

A man in a suit hits the spot? Goodness, I had no idea about all this undercover lust!

Baino said...

Aww c'mon. It's a uniform and we all love a man in uniform! Actually, I like the practicality of not having to work out what to wear each morning, although I haven't worked in a 'corporate' environment for ages. Guess what I'm going out to buy this weekend .. ta daaaa! An 'interview' suit!
Clothes however, do not maketh man I agree.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I agree with all you've said. Hopefully, as more become confident that their competence does not depend upon cloth of a certain cut, the custom will become more widespread.

My son is a partner in a prestigious law firm and casual dress is the rule there except for appearing in court.

Nick said...

Baino - Good grief, what is it with women and guys in suits? Yes, suits are standard issue for interviews as well, even though interviews are specifically about the person's abilities.

Heart - Opinions sharply divided on this topic! Glad someone else agrees with me. Interesting that casual dress doesn't stop people consulting the law firm. Well, why should it if they have the necessary expertise?

Liz said...

A man in a tux, oooooh! And in a kilt, double swoon!

But a suit, no, Husband has to wear suits to work (in IT management) but changes the instant he is home into shorts and t-shirt.

I hadn't really thought about the difference between dress code for men and women and it's an interesting point you make. Now you've inspired me to write a similar post! (But later as I'm suposed to be getting ready for work. In jeans and t-shirt.)

Urgh, my verifier is dedwormi!

Nick said...

Liz - Oh no, not the kilt thing as well! I absolutely loathe kilts, but that's by the by. I'm sure there are millions of men like your hubby who can't wait to get home and change. Yes, do write a post and give us a woman's view....

Philip said...

A suit is no less individual than any of the other standard mass produced outfits that men wear, eg tee-shirt and chinos.

Women have many ways of dressing smartly, but men can only do so by wearing a suit.

Nick said...

Philip - I don't agree, I think there's a lot more individuality in things like T shirts and chinos, even if they're mass-produced. Suits are totally standardised. And any type of clothing is potentially smart, as in the phrase "smart casual".