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{26/06/2012}   Suits

I dislike wearing suits for all reasons other than that a well-tailored suit can make you look very stylish.  I have never had a well-tailored suit but look on those who do with a degree of awe.  I am also somewhat slovenly when it comes to taking things to be dry cleaned.  I think a suit is like a uniform in that it associates you with a particular profession or work environment.  “A suit” is, I think, a label for an IT person, a numbers person; someone who isn’t perceived to be creative in their workplace perhaps?

A few weeks ago, I passed a friend in the street, both of us court reporters/stenographers working, that day, in the same court.  She looked very smart in a well-fitted suit, I felt incredibly scruffy in my relatively smart trousers and untucked shirt.  This got me thinking about suits.  I appreciate that women can get away with more casual attire than men in suity environments.  I’m sure that must be annoying, particularly in what for men would be a tie situation.  In court today, uncharacteristically wearing a shirt tucked into my semi smart black trousers, but with no jacket in sight, I looked around.  The barristers, solicitors, witness and claimants were all men who wore suits.  Only the Deputy Master, a female, and one trainee solicitor, female, were a little less formal; they looked a lot more comfortable, and certainly still smart.  For me to wear a suit, I would feel restricted and far too hot.  The other day, the Master asked, sweat pouring down most people’s faces due to an air conditioning failure and no windows, if anyone would like to remove their jackets.  Both counsel looked at each other surreptitiously and announced that, no, they were fine.  So no one took off their jackets.

Some people seem to exude authority when they are wearing a suit.  But in their casual clothes, they look “normal”, usually completely different!  That’s why I think a suit is like a uniform, only worse because the quality of your threads and the extent to which the suit looks bespoke seem to put you in your rightful place up the rungs of authority and power.  People go for job interviews wearing a suit, it’s to create an impression of confidence, authority, scrubbing up well; but it’s probably the worst representation of who you are.  But maybe proof is needed that you can look smart, competent and authoritative, and as suits are de rigeur for a lot of interviews, it’s a way to match yourself, at least on appearance levels, to what you imagine every other candidate will probably wear.

I think it’s verging on cruel to expect people who sit at a desk all day to wear a suit.  It’s stuffy, not that comfortable and doesn’t allow for much freedom of expression or creativity, though I guess the latter can be displayed through, for example, ties and cufflinks.  Plus, there are a few people I know who manage to make suits look funky, largely with the use of a waistcoat or less starched shirts.  And some of those people wear and look amazing in suits outside of work, though much more trendy.

Again I am skirting around points without making any major ones.  My thoughts yesterday came from seeing a court largely full of men in suits.  If I studied their suits more closely, I expect it would have been apparent that some were of a superior quality, but to see them all, a sea (well, a puddle; it’s not a well-populated court) of dark coloured suits, made them all seem kind of equal, drones, pawns; on first sight devoid of personality.  I know that sounds excessive but those were my thoughts.  But there is something appropriate about suits in court, especially for witnesses, in this case businessmen, for they are trying to persuade the judge of their professionalism.  Maybe it’s all “just” about portraying what you perceive to be the right impression.

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