Suit Up!

I look good in a suit.

Now, there are a lot of points on which I am willing to cede ground, but this is not one of them, so it was with more than a little joy that I went all Barney Stinson for an off-site client meeting this week and appropriately suited up.

My day job is in Corporate America, so you wouldn’t think it particularly noteworthy that an individual in a professional organization would actually get snazzed up for a day, but down in the land of personal cube space and shared fluorescent lighting I might as well have been an invader from the Planet of the MBAs. Apparently the only reasons to wear a suit are if you are attending a funeral or a job interview.

It is a little disheartening to realize that in most cases dressing up has become as simple as wearing a pair of wrinkled Dockers and a golf shirt with faded pizza sauce stains.

I am a writer, and an occasional writer of video games at that, so I realize the bar of professional appearance is not exactly astronomic. People seem generally satisfied that I arrive at most functions without a family of possums living in my tangled hair. But, when I wear my suit of single breasted armor I just feel different, like maybe I should be watching sports while complaining to strangers about diversifying my portfolio.

Am I the only one who feels different wearing a suit? I slip on the jacket over a crisply pressed shirt, choke up that tie and this confidence washes over me. A guy like me, wearing an outfit like that, is clearly going places. I am stuck in traffic with gusto! I am ordering lunch like a man! I am totally owning this elevator ride to the sixth floor! See that penny there? You can have it, because a man like me wearing a suit like this don’t need no stinking, lucky floor-penny.

And, it’s odd because even as I was an overdressed anomaly at work, it seemed that I was also a defacto source of dependable information on topics I was not equipped to address. I understand now how people in suits becoming spouting mouthpieces of nonsense, because there is a strange synergy (Suit Word!) between the unrealistic confidence the wearer has in his own omnipotence matched only by everyone else’s desire to pass the buck.

It is thoroughly addicting. Even now as I am back in the team uniform of low level employees (jeans and a buttoned shirt) I miss the allure, the power of the suit. I start thinking nonsense like, “maybe I could rock the sport coat and jeans look?”

What am I, a sports reporter from a late-80s baseball movie?

No, it is an armor too powerful and too corrupting to wear everyday. It would be just weeks until I was figuring out how I could leverage my home equity for a BMW loan and cheating at business school entrance exams. I would wile away the hours between spreadsheets and Powerpoint presentations watching internet videos on how to improve the distance on my nine-iron. I would finger gun and fist bump.

And yet, it calls to me.

Comments

wordsmythe wrote:
Chairman_Mao wrote:
wordsmythe wrote:

Know what I need to start wearing to work? Denim shorts.

corrected that for ya.

Why can't it be both?

Nevernudes unite!

beeporama wrote:
gore wrote:

I'm with Wordsmythe: if They were to pay me more, I would gladly dress up for Them. But They don't, so I won't, and it seems unlikely I'll ever achieve a degree of success that justifies wearing such an outfit on a regular basis.

I think one of the things you can take home from this article (and the comments) is that you might be mixing up cause and effect.

In my current organization, nobody except the executives and their direct reports wears a suit with any regularity. Could I wear one? I guess I could... but I'd be the best dressed guy in my office, and that includes my boss and all of his peers.

I'm not really interested, and I'm pretty sure it would get me nothing more than odd looks. The thing to remember with the whole "dress for the job you want" bit is that there are degrees; it's not just "suit vs hobo," you can still one-up your business casual colleagues without wearing a suit.

I feel like the "suit culture" must be more prevalent in certain sectors and in certain regions. I've never seen any such phenomenon in IT around here at any level I could potentially be directly promoted to.

Kojiro wrote:
beeporama wrote:
gore wrote:

I'm with Wordsmythe: if They were to pay me more, I would gladly dress up for Them. But They don't, so I won't, and it seems unlikely I'll ever achieve a degree of success that justifies wearing such an outfit on a regular basis.

I think one of the things you can take home from this article (and the comments) is that you might be mixing up cause and effect.

I think your trying to say "dress for the job you want, not the one you have." Which is good advice.

gore wrote:

I'm not really interested, and I'm pretty sure it would get me nothing more than odd looks. The thing to remember with the whole "dress for the job you want" bit is that there are degrees; it's not just "suit vs hobo," you can still one-up your business casual colleagues without wearing a suit.

gore is a little closer to the mark on my intent. To me, it's not just about climbing to another job. I'm quite happy in my current job, and I think we can all find joy in jobs where it might be appropriate to where jeans, or fatigues, or a uniform. It's about the (unfortunate) fact that people will treat you differently based on how you are dressed. Take Mytch's example:

Mytch wrote:

I teach band, and it is noteworthy how much better discipline is on days when I have to wear a suit for some reason, as opposed to most days when I wear my usual khakis and polo shirt!

I am happy with my job. I probably dress a little nicer than my boss. I don't wear a suit, which would get me funny looks; but I do wear nice shoes, and put on a tie for some meetings. I feel as though people take me more seriously when I dress nicer. Which means they take my ideas more seriously. Which means I am more likely to get my way regarding how we do things.

Which also probably affects my very subjective performance reviews, where my raise for the next year is determined.

It's a fault of human nature that clothing so profoundly affects us on a subconscious level, but: use it for your advantage.

I think there is something to be said about wearing a suit. My father when I was little (~5 years old) quit his job and started doing contract engineering from home. Until I was about 11 he would get up and put a suit on to go down to his office in the basement to work alone on his computer. He would do this everyday. He said it helped him to be in the work mentality and made him stay focused during the day. Then when I was eleven He started wearing his cutoff jean shorts and T-shirts because he said he was tired of waring the suit and he could focus just fine without it now that he had the practice.

Now I work in a small machine shop doing mechanical design and IT. We have a very team orientated focus, the guys who started it always had the mentality that if some one was very busy and you weren't you helped. From the president going out and running a machine when the operators were busy to me climbing under machines to help the mechanic do maintenance on one of the large mills. I started wearing nicer cloths (not suits but shirt and tie) but have found that I either need to bring spare clothes to work when I wear nicer cloths or what I to more often is wear a dark work polo and my carharts. I have ruined more shirts then I like to count and having a "uniform" shirt is much easier to plan for/replace.