THE braggart Cloten asked in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline: “Know’st me not by my clothes?” To which we would’st reply: “Naw, ah dinnae.”
Clothes maketh the man a prat, at least when he’s prone to fashion or, worse, is pretending to status.
I speak of suits and will be quite candid with you in saying that I’m not opposed to the beasts per se. I have one myself (Markies’ Frugal Duds range), though I used to have others.
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I even see a need for fashion, as it would be dull to stand still in the same outfits for ever. But the lounge or business suit will never go out of fashion, or at least hasn’t done so since first taking shape in the late 19th century.
It’s fascinating how people’s perceptions change when one wears a suit and, more disturbingly, a tie.
I’m prompted to witter thus after reading about a charity being swamped by a donation of 3,000 suits from the Royal Bank of Scotland, which maintains it didn’t take them from defaulting customers.
The Grassroots Clothing project provides men with smart clothes for job interviews, and it was this that got me thinking, if that’s not too strong a word. Why do we need a suit for an interview or, indeed, a job?
These days, one wouldn’t know what to wear to an interview. You turn up in your Sunday best and find the chief executive sitting there in a Hawaiian shirt and backward baseball cap.
Well, maybe not. A suit’s probably still a safe bet. The real question is: a tie or not a tie? My strategy is to wear a tie but cover it with a football scarf draped down my chest. If the interviewer isn’t wearing a tie, then I sneak my hand up under the scarf and remove mine. This can take four or five minutes, and once resulted in my choking temporarily. Operational note: no success at interviews for 21 years.
The suit is one thing, rather nondescript in itself, but add a tie (and preferably a shirt), and the roads to power open up before you. Service in shops and restaurants markedly improves. It’s odd.
I never wear a suit outwith interviews as I’d feel a fraud, a failure masquerading as a success, a pauper pretending at means. I used to wear suits often, particularly when attending Parliament (Holyrood and doon yonder) which, oddly enough, made me feel even more of a fraud.
The suit still seems appropriate for power, even though the term “suits” is used in derision, usually by other people in suits. On islands, a suit marks someone out as a cooncil employee or a local solicitor. Most islanders manfully restrain an urge to throw the wearer in the sea.
Women in our most immoral professions – politics and the law – wear suits (jaickit and skirt) and it brings out the worst in them. And by “worst” I mean “male”.
The ancient Roman equivalent of the suit was the toga, which must have been murder to iron. Most citizens hated them, as they were difficult to wear properly. But when in Rome and all that.
Togas did have an egalitarian effect but, of course, the dopes at the top had to have better quality and shelled out more denarii for refinements noticed by no one (like today’s expensive watches). I fail to see how Rome could be seen as the height of civilisation when it lacked a Matalan.
It’s surprising how little variation there is in today’s suits. Peculiar lapels rarely last as fashion, and don’t get me started on vents. I don’t like them at all, particularly the double ones which flap against the buttocks.
However, I dare say that, when jamming your sweating posterior into the hot seat at a job interview, you’ve more on your mind than vents. Word of advice: if you get one of these RBS suits, check the pockets for money. They’re always losing the stuff.