The response to my recent post on defending dressing – especially Sarah R‘s comment about her brother-in-law’s experience at his office – reminded me that Husband Mike has some very personal experience with acceptance and ostracization as it relates to style. So I demanded a Manfashion Interlude. And he delivered.
A couple of years ago, I decided that I was going to be a guy who wore suits. Winter was approaching, and it was an excellent time to transition. I had three or four suits that I wore for my wedding photography work, and with a couple more I could make it through the winter wearing only suits.
I like suits. The primary criterion for looking good in a suit is that it fit correctly. The styles do not change much from year to year, and if the jacket gets a bit snug, you just keep it unbuttoned and take it off while at your desk. Pair it with a cool tie and you da’ man.
I wanted to be da’ man, and be taken a bit more seriously at work. The office where I work is quite casual. A couple of the guys wear ties, but there is a 50% chance that their pants don’t fit right. The rest of us got away with a clean button-down shirt and, in my case, a cardigan. (Embrace your inner old man!) My boss was quite stylish, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt me to dress a little better around the office.
During the first two to three weeks making the move from a cardigan to a suit I was assaulted by comments and questions many times a day about whether I was interviewing for a job, giving a presentation, or going to court. It got old. It must have gotten old for the rest of the office, too, because after three weeks I was a guy who wore suits.
What type of suit-wearing guy are you, or do you wish your guy would be?
There are four types of suit-wearing guys:
- The Wedding / Funeral / Job Interview Guy
- The My Job Requires a Suit Guy
- The it’s Just the Suit Coat with Some Mismatched Pants, But I Still Look Better Than That Guy in the Simpson’s T-shirt Guy
- and the I’m a Man, of Course I Wear a Suit Guy
I used to be Guy #3. A social service agency where I once worked had a thrift store connected to it. Since I started my day before the store opened, I had first crack at the goods. Suits were a dollar, ties were twenty five cents. Awesome. I had many vintage sport coats that I thought looked great. I had no idea what to wear with them so the look often failed. But not long before that I had been wearing Frankenstein suits with the arms and legs too short, accompanied by Red Wing work boots and a straw hat with the brim cut off. Any step was a step in the right direction.
I had a sales job once and really enjoyed the freedom of wearing a suit every day (Guy #2). I had 6 suits, 20 ties, some white shirts and a couple of blue ones. I looked “good” every day and ladies complimented me on my interesting ties. I didn’t look really good in my suits because my suits were not really good suits. $100 to $300 was the most I would spend for a new suit at TJ Maxx, and that was fine for a fella who was wearing suits because it was part of the job. It simplified my wardrobe, and there is tremendous value in that for a guy like me. The goal for Guy #2 is to fit in. He’s wearing a uniform.
I admire people who fall into the Guy #4 category. I imagine Paul Smith coming to visit my parents’ house for brunch, a banker in a real bank (Wells Fargo, you ain’t it), or a butler on his day off. I’ll never be this guy. There is no way I could invest the money required for the caliber of suit, not to mention the proper dry cleaning. People in this category sure look good, though. Sometimes it is nice to page through GQ while sitting in well-appointed clothing stores equipped with partner perches, and imagine being Guy #4. (In Minnesota, see shoplocalshops.com to see which stores meet my partner perch criteria.)
I could be Guy #3 again, but 20 years later I’m not sure what I think about Guy #3. I don’t always like the look, and think it is a bit of a fashion cop-out to pair some random suit coat with a graphic tee with a pair of dark jeans and call it a day. But then again, isn’t the ease of the suit the purpose of wearing it? It seems like Guy #2 at work is not all that different than Guy #3 at the popular drinking establishment in his intent or effect: Look good, fit in.
I said there were 4 types of suit-wearing guys, but there are at least 5. I did not mention Guy #5 because I have never seen him in the wild, but I have seen him in the Sartorialist. He’s wearing his fancy-lad jacket with shorts and hightops. WTF? I can’t even wrap my head around these guys so they’re left out of the discussion.
Images courtesy The Sartorialist. Except Frankenstein. I have no idea where HM dug him up.