Thursday, August 18, 2011
When are we going to give up on suits?
The other day I saw a worker in a car rental agency wearing a suit. I have some experience with this particular company. Corporate policy states that all of their representatives will wear suits AT ALL TIMES. Because most of their rental outlets are small (one or two staff), their representatives are also required to clean the cars when they come back from being rented. Some of these vehicles, in this town at least, come back with a layer of mud and pig shit (literally) that you cannot believe. So these poor fools are supposed to deal with your rental needs then spend an hour scraping sludge off someone’s interior. All while wearing a suit. The car cleaning scene from Pulp Fiction comes to mind. Do you think Samuel Jackson and John Travolta walked away from that bloody mess with clean suits? I think not. So what is the car agency trying to prove? How high class they are? Because I know what they pay their employees, and it isn’t enough to have a closet full of suits that can be burned through like coveralls. Can we finally admit that suits are, frankly, a little silly?
I’m not suggesting that suits should stop being made. What I am wondering, though, is if we are ever going to get over the ridiculous idea that a suit is some sort of default uniform that bestows credibility and trust. Bankers wear suits. Lawyers wear suits. Businessmen. Politicians. Investment brokers. Insurance salesmen. How is it that we are still stupid enough to equate “suit” with “someone we should believe”? The guy slouching around the block wearing the faded Metallica T-shirt might look disreputable, but at least there’s an outside chance he wouldn’t lie to you in order to further his own career (since, really, how much further can he go in the industry of car detailing).
If you take some time to examine the cross section of society that uses the suit as its standard dress code, you would be hard pressed to find groups with a less trustworthy reputation. “Blood-sucking lawyer” is not a term of endearment. I’m not claiming that their reputation is always deserved. I know many fine lawyers, bankers, businessmen, etc. But hasn’t their influence - deserved or not - besmirched the once-proud virtue of the suit forever? I mean, we use “suit” as a derogatory term for corporate stooges or government minions. Why are they still around? (Suits, not government minions. Government minions are eternal.)
Yes, there is a market for suits, but it is primarily a rental one. Grads, weddings, even funerals. That last in particular. Do you really want to keep the grim, black thing you wore to Grandma’s funeral hanging around in your closet? There are no happy memories attached to a funeral suit. (Unlike, perhaps, a grad suit, where you got too drunk and threw up on your date. Good times.) The last time I owned a suit was so long ago that it was “hip” to wear something double-breasted. How many others have a single suit in their closet that can’t be relied upon anyway, since your waist size has drifted dangerously high in the ten years since you last dusted the thing off?
The ultimate symbol of the suit is the crowning piece of stupidity of the whole thing. The tie. A noose to symbolize the slow death by asphyxiation usually caused by a job is an obvious parallel to draw, but not necessarily an inaccurate one. Your brain requires a lot of oxygen in a day, so why restrict the flow of vital blood to your cranium? Plus nothing is quite as gross as the way male neck flab flows over the top of a firmly knotted tie. It’s like a snapshot of a fleshy lava flow. Plus you can always count on your tie to take a dip into your tomato soup at lunch or get caught in a drawer. Do you have any idea how many fatalities each year are caused by someone’s tie getting caught in a paper-shredder? (Probably none, but I bet you thought I had some unbelievable statistic coming, didn’t you.)
Sure, maybe work places are getting grubbier every year. If that’s a real fear, then institute an honest uniform rather than a vague dress code. Doctors wear white coats. Teachers can have green ones. Lawyers black (you have to give them black because it’s the coolest colour and if they aren’t given it, they’ll just take you to court and win it anyway). Bankers blue. It’s even alliterative. Whatever system we decide on, does it have to involve the suit and its ugly cousin, the necktie?
(Plus, they make the dumb things out of wool. Wool. Really? It gets over 35 Celsius in this country and you want me to dress in a shirt, tie, waistcoat, and jacket, all made of wool? Grooms faint every year during outdoor wedding because of black wool tuxedos. When will we learn? When will the suffering end?)
So, in conclusion, suits are stupid.