The tyranny of the suit and tie

You could probably divide my career into a suit and tie period and no suit and no tie period.  The latter began in 1997 when I started my own business, the first item of company policy being no suit. And no tie. Since then, suit and tie at formal occasions only.

Why suits anyway?  I believe that it is a control mechanism perpetrated by the British Establishment.

It is as fine as example of social engineering as you can find. It has been around since about 1870 or so driven by the top-tier English Public Schools and their Old Boys who saw a need to continue with a uniform denoting membership of their exclusive society. The requirement was the legions of colonial administrators sent forth around the world to administer the British Empire and the need to differentiate between grammar school boys and the sons of gentlemen when out in the sticks.

The uniform is usually a dark two-piece suit, monocolour shirt and a phallic symbol hanging down from the throat.  In tropic regions, the rule is relaxed to allow pinstriped shorts. To be worn with proper shoes and long socks.

The suit fabric should be wooly, definitely not silk, dark in colour, preferably black, blue or if you feel a bit daring, grey.  The only decoration a thin pinstripe. Other colours and broad stripes are worn by lesser mortals like salesmen, costermongers and turf accountants. Wearers of shiny suits will be thrown from the building.

The status of three piece suits is not quite resolved yet, unless one is a QC when waistcoat pockets are required to hold the Hunter’s watch and chain and for the placing of thumbs during summings-up.  Tweed is not acceptable, unless one is at, or returning from one’s country estate.  Debretts is also silent on when it is, and is not acceptable, to remove one’s jacket. Braces are acceptable, of a width consistent with the achievement of their function. Belts, no.

The phallic symbol should be restrained in size and colour and demonstrate a past affinity with an educational establishment, appropriate sporting club or regiment. Multicoloured items, particularly Polynesian, and motivational or humorous motifs are not allowed.  It is not to be removed in company under any circumstances.  Being taught by one’s father or father’s valet how to tie a Windsor knot is a particular rite of passage.

Shoes are black leather with laces. No patent leather. Absolutely no slip-ons. Brogues are acceptable, particularly if one is from the provinces. Hush Puppies are deeply suspect, and are often referred to as Brothel Creepers. Boots, particularly brown boots, have been unacceptable since the 1950s.

Personally I feel that the ability to wear a suit indicates an ability to buy the uniform, nothing more. It is not indicative of any business or technical ability, but hints at unnamed connections in the upper echelons of business and society.

So what is it?  Looking at organisations that insist on suit wearing, and the people who gleefully rush to the tailor for one, it seems to me to more likely to reflect am anal-retentive desire to become an undifferentiated member of the herd.

After all, accountants and actuaries insist on wearing them.

Away with suits – La Luta Continua.

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