“Clothes Make the Man” is often quoted from Mark Twain. “Dress for success” is also bandied around a bit, but tracing its exact origin is more difficult. For women this means a nice outfit and it can take many forms, dress, blouse, suit or skirt but for men it is undeniably the suit and only the suit. I’ve worn a suit many times: to weddings, funerals and special outings with my wife (when I can find a babysitter for the kids) but never have I ever worn a suit for work, even when I have been requested to.
As an Engineer I’m interested in results. Interested in being able to produce designs, code, troubleshoot, fix, create and so on and none of these require fancy clothes. Suits often require dry-cleaning which seems like an expensive overhead compared to a pair of jeans in the washing machine that I can clean at home for a 10th of the price in my own time. Suits cost more money, are hence the tendency is to repair rather than buy a replacement should one become damaged. Suits are also not all that comfortable, though the suit-wearing populace would say: you just need to get the right suit fitted and they’re comfortable. To that I say, I’ve never had a pair of jeans professionally fitted and every single one felt comfortable nevertheless.
So what is it that a Suit brings to the table? So far as I can tell it’s about only two things: 1) Looking like those around you (conformity) and 2) improving your self-esteem. I love the concept that wearing nice clothes makes you feel better about yourself and for men especially this leads to more self-confidence, boosting your self-esteem. I prefer to see it as, if you need nice clothes to make you feel better, you have much deeper problems. As for conformity, that’s fit for another article someday. Suffice it to say, innovation and talent never thrived in a conformist environment.
I’d personally be happier if suits were banned from workplaces in the same way I’d be happier if glossy pictures of perfectly prepared food in a fast-food joint were replaced with actual photos of what was sold, but that will never happen. The people at the top buy into it and hence it won’t change. Too often people forget the next sentence in Mark Twains work that follows: “Naked people have little or no influence…” The point Twain was making is that so long as you are wearing some sort of clothing, you have a chance of being taken seriously. Beyond basic clothing, the fancier the clothes you wear, the more the distraction from your own abilities or lack thereof. I’ll stick with my jeans and just do what I do best: something constructive.