Suits and Ties

I saw on Twitter that my friend Joe Brusuelas was going to do some damage on Savile Row in England.  I was a bit jealous.  He got some shoes made in Florence too.  I love clothes but never buy them.  One of the nice developments recently is the availability of tailored clothes at affordable prices.

Recently, I saw the lining of one of my sportcoats was loose.  Two of my suits didn’t fit quite right.  I took them to the factory where they were made to get fixed.  I am lucky.  In 2007 I bought some Oxxford Suits as a gift to myself after graduating from MBA school.  I had never ever had a really high-quality suit.  I always bought off the rack stuff at places like Bigsby and Kruthers or Karolls.  It was dissatisfying because I just don’t have an off the rack size.

I tried on a bunch of European brands of suits but they didn’t fit right either.  I discovered Oxxford.  I bought a couple plus a blue blazer and sportcoat.

Funny thing is as soon as I did the only time I wore suits was at weddings and funerals!  America has gotten a lot more casual in the ensuing years.  Men just don’t wear formal clothes anymore.  Most of the time I wear jeans and a t-shirt with a sweater if it’s cold. In the summer, a t-shirt or polo and shorts.  My Allen Edmonds shoes sit spit shined with shoe trees in them inside flannel bags so they don’t scratch while my feet enjoy All Birds, Nikes or Pumas or Adidas.  My Hermes ties and tailored shirts collect a lot of dust.

When we were trading on the floor, we would wear polo shirts with the same tie every day.  I’d roll it up in my trading jacket pocket.  High tops and khakis.  When I was on CME’s board, I had to trade in nicer more formal clothes because for meetings we had to wear them.  Board meetings were suit days.  Wearing a suit in a trading pit wasn’t super comfortable.  You’d sweat through it then have to go to a board meeting and the outside board member that might be a banker would wonder what they were smelling.

One thing that I have learned by being exposed to startups is that people get really creative when there are constraints.  People do better with constraints.  They have to discipline themselves.  A suit is a type of constraint. It used to be a social construct.  It’s what you wore to work if you were male.

I wonder if it will ever turn back?  I was reading my friend Laura Hollis column the other day on Losing the Language of Morality.   She says,

If we find ourselves objecting to behavior that is legal, then there must be a source of morality other than the law, and there must be a language — permissible and accessible — to describe it.

What is considered “moral” can and does change. That is not necessarily catastrophic. What is, is the lack of common language and ethos of morality. Without those, all we have are arbitrary incidents of outrage, untethered to anything explicable or consistent.

That is a prescription for collapse.

In a different way, but in the same vein Joy Pullman wonders if we have lost the intellectual tradition in America.  Social media has made us all knee-jerk.  Knee-jerk lacks critical thought.  She says,

For several generations now, he says, this broad and deep knowledge that is key to America’s survival as a singular nation that preserves citizens’ natural liberties has been eroded. Western civilization’s centuries of dialogue between Athens and Jerusalem — two historic cities that represent reason and faith, respectively — establish universals about human nature that Americans once again need to draw upon to make key decisions about our future. This is why the college has put this lecture series, and many others, online.

“There’s a truth to by found by reason for every human being and a truth to be found by faith for every human being,” Arnn says. “…There are things to know that are lovely and ennobling to know.”

I wonder, would men treat women differently if they had suits on?  If women were dressed more formally in the workplace?  Would it bring a sense of decorum back to society?  Would we speak differently and treat each other differently?  What would we think about the role of government in our lives?  What would we think about privacy?

The left is constantly pre-occupied with distrust of corporations.  That’s not a bad thing.  The right is constantly pre-occupied with distrust of government.  That’s not a bad thing either.  The problem is with the government, we never seem to get less of it once established.  At least corporations can go out of business or get bought out.  The left seems to twist and turn all kinds of social issues to try and make them normal.  The right tries to keep them in a box.

I am all for everyone drumming to their own drummer, but we need some sort of guardrails that are informally enforced by society.  Otherwise, there is anarchy.  Anarchy leads not to more freedom, but less.  Totalitarians thrive on anarchy.  Totalitarians don’t like suits and ties.  They like uniforms.

thanks for the link Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit

  • awaldstein

    Agree about clothes. Huge lover of clothes who wears my old stuff infrequently.

    Disagree with you and your friend about most everything else especially the lack of language as the cause of moral decline.

    The issue isn’t a lack of language it is people who believe that the end justifies the means. That is the downfall of culture–from the beginning of time till today.

    Whether that is her and yourself I have no idea but that is the issue. Her lack of listing Trump makes me sense that indeed she is one of the apologists looking in the wrong place.

  • ubik

    It does seem that when men stopped dressing like their fathers, they stopped growing up and became Peter Pans.

    • allencic

      Exacty right!

  • Michael J. Lotus

    The pendulum has swung way, way too far.
    Hopefully people will tighten things up a little.
    People look better when they dress decently, and a suit is built to flatter the mature man’s form. We do ourselves a disservice dressing down all the time.

  • allencic

    I’m a retired professor. I always felt more professional, more organized and did a better job in class if I didn’t dress like a bum. Too many profs nowadays dress like they’ve just spent a hard day working at Midas Muffler. At the start of a semester a female student was looking for me (first time in one of my classes) but couldn’t remember my name. She was asked by one of my colleagues what I looked like. She said, “Oh you know, he always wears nice pants, a coat and tie and his shoes are always shined.” He directed her to me. I’m afraid her description said more of the slovenly look of the other professors than it did about me. When I started teaching in 1965 all profs dressed pretty well. Suits were common. When I retired the majority weren’t just casual, they looked sloppy and as if they didn’t care. Because they didn’t.

    • gozur88

      Do adjunct professors make enough money to dress in a suit every day? As a software developer I always dressed comfortably (the computer doesn’t care). When I eventually got a job at a mutual fund company I was shocked to discover just how expensive it is to dress in traditional business suits.

      • That’s always been true but the cost to buy a decent suit and shirt has gone way down.

      • allencic

        The adjunct professors are victims of a cruel scam where the grad schools need to keep cranking out very qualified new PhDs (especially in the humanities) who have as little chance of finding full-time tenure track positions as a poor black kid who is good at street basketball does of becoming another Michael Jordan.

      • allencic

        You don’t need to buy all your clothes at Brooks Brothers to look and act professionally. LL Bean and/or Lands End will keep you looking and feeling good about your dress.

        • Ebay often has good stuff if you can weed out the fakes

      • BillyOblivion

        It’s not that expensive if you know where to shop.

        With a suit the MOST CRITICAL thing is how it fits, and most guys can’t go straight from the rack to the office. A little nip here and tuck there turns a 2 for 1 deal from Jos A. Bank into a suit that looks better than you can get at BB.

    • snowfarthing

      As a grad student, I remember some of my professors dressing nicely. I wore polo shirts and cargo pants (kahkis with pockets on the knees). I knew at least one fellow grad student who literally wore pajamas.

      I had, and still have to this day, a difficult time wrapping my head around the idea of going out in public wearing pajamas…

  • Jeff Gauch

    There’s an irony here in that what we consider a formal suit today would have been called casual wear (if such a phrase existed) 130 years ago. The trend in men’s fashion has always moved towards more casualness, with casual wear becoming accepted in formal settings while previous formal wear becomes more restricted and eventually obsolete. Nobody today would attend a business meeting in knee breeches and a justacorps. This trend has been steady in direction, if not pace, for hundreds of years. It may turn out that people in the future wearing fancy pajamas in formal settings is the one prediction Star Trek managed to get right.

    • If they invent the “beam me up” technology, it might be worth it.

  • John David Flanagan

    It’s a shame if for no other reason but that a well-fitting suit makes a man look so much better. I call it the man’s Wonderbra. Whether you’re built like Carrot Top or Meat Loaf (early edition), a good suit will make you look good. I don’t know if Akebono owns a suit, but if he does, he looks good in it. What else can a man wear that he can say that about?

  • Danny

    Getting men to dress like men or women to dress like women? This is beyond mere casual dress codes. This is about masculinity, femininity, and the breakdown of such definitions. You can’t go back.

  • Joe_Bunda

    Gentlemen: why has no one spoken up in favor of three piece suits? Oh, and ones repleat with a ticket pocket? (Full disclosure: alas all my three piece suits have no ticket pocket. My “smart casual” suits have one.) With a shirt with French cuffs? Whose with me? To the bar for cognac!

    • The ticket pocket! Never put one in my suit. The next overcoat I buy will have one. Three piece suits are a bit constraining to me, but if you can pull it off pull it off. People don’t think there is creativity in suits but you just elicited two ways to get creative

  • bobbymike34

    I am a banker and have worn tailored suits for the last 12 years and all are conservative and traditional. Sure I add some touches like surgeon’s cuffs, slant pockets, ticket pocket, custom linings (especially for my three piece suits so with jacket off there some flare), etc. but all very classic looking.

    I love putting on a great fitting suit, makes me feel I can conquer the world, business world at least.

  • Michael J. Lotus

    Businesses could introduce Trad Tuesday, where you can wear a suit or jacket and tie, if you want. It might catch on.

  • Dusty Thompson

    Clothes dont make the man. That is a female thought process.

  • Doctor Mist

    It has been instructive to watch the 1955 episodes of What’s My Line currently available onAmazon Video. The panel and host are, as I remembered, witty, urbane, well-dressed, and unfailingly polite to each other. They are also, to my amazement, champing at the bit to crack a rude joke about a contestant’s name, weight, baldness, shortness, or desirability as a sexual partner.

    “Political correctness” has wrought great damage to our social norms, but as much as it pains me to say so, this experience has showed me that it has made a few improvements along the way.

    • Andrew Page

      I had the same thoughts watching classic Bond movies last year.