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The Plural Noun For Tailors is a "Disguisery"
September 5, 2011 6:08 PM   Subscribe

The Man's Suit (p2/p3/p4) has influenced politics, shaped fashion, and signaled everything from stodgy conformity to rock stardom, sex-appeal, power, and success. And yet the man's lounge suit was originally considered the casual option. It is an iconic image of Western (and today, global) masculinity, even when used to question and challenge traditional gender iconography. And where are the finest men's suits in the world made?

Many would argue that the finest bespoke tailors in the world are found on and around Savile Row, London. There, a small community of master craftspeople serve a well-heeled clientele looking for refined, intimate service resulting in clothing of unparalleled quality and workmanship that will last forever (or at least long enough to be passed down from father to son to grandson), as they have done for 200 years. But how will the ancient bespoke tailoring houses deal with common jeans-mongers known for bespoke faces and half-naked models moving their flagship store to The Row? Will they attract others of their ilk (bringing higher rents with them)? Can the traditionally independent tailoring houses come together to address the threat? Savile Row, episode 1: "Love Thy Neighbor"(p2/p3/p4/p5/p6/p7)

The tailors of Savile Row have always always shunned advertising, preferring word of mouth and reputation to draw customers. With the arrival of A&F on Savile Row, the tailors (who, as a group, would prefer to keep themselves to themselves and not actually have "a group") are forced to take the Savile Row "brand" in their skillful grips and both defend as well as spread the word about it, something somewhat foreign to their experiences. There's a registered trade group (though there is controversy over just who gets into the club). They also ruffle some piume at an Italian menswear show when they take their history and skills on the road in order to promote what they have to offer: the finest tailoring services anywhere. Also, we follow tailor Dave Ward from Henry Poole & Co as he ventures to Beijing, where Poole is teaming up with a Chinese tailoring firm in an effort to tap the vast market there by licensing the Henry Poole name. Savile Row, episode 2: "Foreign Affairs" (p2/p3/p4/p5/p6

The tailors of Savile Row are a community where age and experience is respected and "as long as you can hold a needle, you can hold a job". But many of those senior artisans are not being replaced in the way they once were. Their skills could be lost if a new generation isn't on hand to learn from the mentors' tutelage. Alexander McQueen did his apprenticeship at Anderson & Sheppard. But he gave up the life of a "maker" to be a "designer". Will other apprentice tailors follow his lead? Likewise, there are only so many young officers from Sandhurst, who come to Dege & Skinner and other fixtures of The Row to buy their first formal dress uniforms. How many will come back later for a civilian suit? Can bespoke tailoring draw in the next generation of customers to their (not at all inexpensive) services? In this episode, we follow several apprentice tailors as they go about learning the ancient craft, as well as getting ready to compete in the annual Golden Shears competition. We also get a glimpse at steps the Savile Row tailors are taking to make sure there is a next generation with the skill level to make the suits they are so famous for. Savile Row, Episode 3: "New Blood" (p2/p3/p4/p5/p6/p7)

Bonus material: Savile Row bespoke tailor/menswear designer Ozwald Boateng on "Why Style Matters" (p2/p3/p4/p5/p6)

Previously
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey (87 comments total) 112 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well I can die happy.
posted by The Whelk at 6:10 PM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


yeah I really resent how something that has only been around a bit over a century and started off in one area of the world is suddenly THE index for formal wear around the world. not to mention women get to wear a whole lot more in formal wear styles. f that noise.
posted by the mad poster! at 6:11 PM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


First comment is by The Whelk. I owe myself $20.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:12 PM on September 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


not to mention women get to wear a whole lot more in formal wear styles. f that noise.

this. I've studied fashion and costume design and history, and i really don't have much sympathy for the old guard. Alexander McQueen had the right idea, and frankly made art after he left. They may make quality, but the standard suit can die now.

Plus, i'm sick of the elitism suits and their fans tend to create and thrive on. :P
posted by usagizero at 6:19 PM on September 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


well other cultures have traditional men's clothes that are a lot more vivid (or can be made so) so it doesn't have to be Savile Row vs McQueen. but yeah you have to judge whether you can pull it off
posted by the mad poster! at 6:22 PM on September 5, 2011


As much as I love suits I would be realty happy if we had more color historical color options ( Bright Mustard was a popular trouser color, the 1800s was lurid compared to today's colors).

I also petition for the return of robes, monks habits, and kilts. Thought abhors pants.
posted by The Whelk at 6:24 PM on September 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


Thought abhors pants.

I'm gonna try that line
posted by the mad poster! at 6:27 PM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't remember when I last owned a suit. I love a nice suit, but I never have a reason to wear one.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:32 PM on September 5, 2011


I cannot wait to show this to every last one of my friends. it is going to be a happy week for so many people.
posted by spindle at 6:33 PM on September 5, 2011


I love suits, but I'm cheap and thus buy them on eBay.

Each time I put one on, I say a little prayer: "Please God, don't let this have been worn by a dead person."
posted by 4ster at 6:35 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember reading some story in Ghana where the writer talked to some natives about the clothes delivered by the charity organizations and saying they wouldn't ware them cause they must be the clothes of your dead, not realizing they where manily factory over-surplus and irregulars and cast-offs cause he couldn't imagine people throwing away so many clothes.
posted by The Whelk at 6:38 PM on September 5, 2011


I can't remember when I last owned a suit. I love a nice suit, but I never have a reason to wear one.

I do... 1968. Handmade in Hong Kong. Sharkskin.
posted by jgaiser at 6:45 PM on September 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wish I could pull off a nice suit, or at least 'looking like Nick Cave', but I'm too broke and too much of a schlub. I sometimes do the indie kid 'pinstriped pants and thrift store jacket' thing, but I'm so far from wealth and taste its silly.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:49 PM on September 5, 2011


"Please God, don't let this have been worn by a dead person."

I actually got a pair of (nice enough, <$5) used wool gabardine pants off eBay a few months ago that arrived with a hospital admission form in the pocket. I figured this definitely meant "clean before wearing."
posted by RogerB at 6:52 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Try the "Eco-Couture Hemp Dress Jacket
Vegan Hemp Business Suit"

posted by longsleeves at 7:11 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]



Good god, I hate wearing a suit.

It's probably the thing that most holds me back from making something more of myself. Seriously, I say "Hrm, I could apply for that job and probably get it. But, I'd have to wear a suit. Funk Dat."
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:11 PM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't mind the suit itself. A decent wool suit with a lightweight shirt under it is about the most comfortable business-y thing you can wear to/in the office when it's ~45 degrees F out. The thing that kills me is the tie-

"Yep, here's my throat, just pull on this infernal dangly thing to choke me!"
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:25 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a technology guy, I much prefer the idea of a suit made with a 3D scanner and laser cutter. I jump out of way too many helicopters to risk destroying a handmade suit.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:26 PM on September 5, 2011


I do... 1968. Handmade in Hong Kong. Sharkskin.

Mister Jonathon! Why you not return my Christmas Cards?
posted by Ahab at 7:30 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Suits are really an invention of modern warfare. Just ask Napoleon.

Granted, he designed them to look snazzy so people would want to wear them, but, yeah, what we know as a suit today has a lot to do with the military and warfare.

One could write a doctoral thesis about the conscious and subconscious military-fetish psychosexual politics of the whole thing. Even today people wear suits to project confidence, power and even dominance or aggression. They are often less clothing and more totem, fetish or sigil.

I'm not throwing any stones or anything. There's certainly a lot of nice things to be said about a good suit. They haven't changed much because really, they look pretty good. I'd rather someone was wearing a nice suit for first contact with extraterrestrials instead of, say shorts, sandals and a t-shirt that read "I'm with stupid".
posted by loquacious at 7:42 PM on September 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd rather someone was wearing a nice suit for first contact with extraterrestrials instead of, say shorts, sandals and a t-shirt that read "I'm with stupid".

I don't think the extraterrestrials would care.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:45 PM on September 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wear suits sometimes because suits are neat and you don't really need a reason to own a suit other than because you like neat things.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:47 PM on September 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I love suits—I love them—but I hate that I will never make enough money to own really excellent tailored ones.

So I sort of have a hard time ginning up any sympathy for the poor languishing artisans of Saville Row. I'm sure their "well-heeled" clientele will manage.
posted by pts at 7:52 PM on September 5, 2011


The men's suit has become so standardized that all that's left is the arguing and the niggling over minor, tiny details where discussions can rage on and on over 2-button vs. 3-button, matters of 1/4" over the width of the lapel, shades of dark gray, how much padding in the shoulders. I kind of wish that instead a "men's suit" men some matching combination of jacket and slacks and that the range of acceptable style was much wider.

But for the most part, for 100 years, we've settled on one thing and have hardly moved a bit in men's fashion, except insofar as the suit is no longer a daily requirement for white collar work as it used to be.
posted by deanc at 7:52 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


SINGLE VENT
posted by shakespeherian at 7:53 PM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wear suits sometimes because suits are neat and you don't really need a reason to own a suit other than because you like neat things.

This.

When I stop smoking, I plan on having Thomas Mahon make me a suit. At the moment, I burn too many holes in my clothes to justify spending that sort of money.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:03 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


QUINTUPLE VENT. So many vents it's starting to look like fringe.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:03 PM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Even today people wear suits to project confidence, power and even dominance or aggression. They are often less clothing and more totem, fetish or sigil.

Isn't this true of all clothing though?

Cracked just covered pants but I'm pretty sure everything we wear is invested with meaning.

<-- the guy who takes 15 minutes to decide what t-shirt to wear each morning
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:16 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thorzdad: "I can't remember when I last owned a suit. I love a nice suit, but I never have a reason to wear one."

Doesn't anyone you know ever get married or die? I have three suits in three different sizes depending on how fat I am when when of those two things happens.
posted by octothorpe at 8:30 PM on September 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


If the center of global economic dominance is moving away from the U.S. and Europe, does that at least mean the rest of the world can wear something in their own tradition as the respectable form of daily wear instead of the same gol durn uniform we're stuck with? Occasionally in the Arab world they do, but it'd be awesome if, say, Japanese busnessmen did.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:39 PM on September 5, 2011


At 32 I've decided that this will be the year I start wearing suits. Well, as soon as cycling weather is over. I'm starting cheap (H&M), keeping my eye on eBay, and spending a lot more time paying attention to the window displays at Holt Renfrew and Harry Rosen.

Part of me is tired of t-shirts and jeans, part of me just wants to look sharp and a little part of me wants to dress like Doctor Who (Matt Smith edition). I don't think I'll ever be able to afford a bespoke suit, much less a Savile Row one, but I like knowing such things exist.
posted by thecjm at 8:40 PM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Good god, I hate wearing a suit.

It's probably the thing that most holds me back from making something more of myself. Seriously, I say "Hrm, I could apply for that job and probably get it. But, I'd have to wear a suit. Funk Dat."


Not favorited for the sentiment, but for the Sagat reference.
posted by scose at 8:43 PM on September 5, 2011


I wear suits sometimes because suits are neat and you don't really need a reason to own a suit other than because you like neat things.

Well, that, and you look good in them. I remember some columnist that said the older you get, the better you look in a suit, and the worse you look in jeans and a T shirt. He's right.

Wow this post has a ton of info, it will take ages to go through it. I'm already looking for more info on that assertion that the suit was the casual option. I tell people I've seen old vintage British photos of stevedores and farmers wearing wool suits and nobody believes me.

I am surprised at how some people just don't understand anything about suits. I never really got it about suits until I worked in an IBM sales office. It was strictly blue suit white shirt red tie, it was a whole culture of its own. I once was sent home to get a new tie because the boss didn't like the one I was wearing. I went across the street to a department store and bought a new tie. I remember seeing one infamous IBM training video where the speaker wears a ludicrous sport coat made of a crazy patchwork of denim. That was considered hilarious in the IBM culture.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:48 PM on September 5, 2011


Wow, how long ago did you work at IBM? I was there for seven year in the 00s and never saw a suit or tie even once.
posted by octothorpe at 9:03 PM on September 5, 2011


It's a uniform. We're status seeking animals. It's about status, and "looking a certain way".

Sometimes one feels like going in that direction, but making a fetish out of it is pretty pathetic. Look, the thing that makes the people who wear this stuff - or drive a Ferrari - feel good about their spending is because *other* people are impressed. Think about the rampant insecurity in that. Again, not to put down the "suit", but it needs to be said; it's about status, one-upping the competition, and getting your ego stroked - even if the latter is via a subtle, sideways glance of covetous admiration.
posted by Vibrissae at 9:09 PM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mid 80s, octothorpe. This was in sales and customer tech work, not internal non-customer facing work.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:17 PM on September 5, 2011


the thing that makes the people who wear this stuff - or drive a Ferrari - feel good about their spending is because *other* people are impressed.

I've never driven a Ferrari, but I have worn a nice suit, and the thing is that when something fits correctly, you enjoy wearing it, just as I assume that driving a Ferrari is a unique experience that is enjoyable in a way few other things are. Things that fit better and feel better are just nicer. Now maybe there's a sort of status association in that other people wish that they, too, had something that fit well and felt nice to wear, but it's not actually about just impressing other people. A suit, unlike a car, is so "standardized" that you have to look carefully to tell whether a suit is expensive or not.
posted by deanc at 9:21 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Look, the thing that makes the people who wear this stuff - or drive a Ferrari - feel good about their spending is because *other* people are impressed. Think about the rampant insecurity in that. Again, not to put down the "suit", but it needs to be said; it's about status, one-upping the competition, and getting your ego stroked - even if the latter is via a subtle, sideways glance of covetous admiration.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
posted by vidur at 9:42 PM on September 5, 2011


Not truly suit-related, but the current western mode of "pants" that are worn low on men's hips, and only kept there by a belt putting a gash in your middle are just fucking ridiculous (especially for those of us with no ass to speak of). It would be difficult to come up with a more uncomfortable ungainly impractical arrangement for covering the bottom part of the body.

We need to revive "tall" pants that rise above the belly and are held up by suspenders.

If you've got an ass, your mileage may vary.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 9:53 PM on September 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


I have an ass worthy of celebration but formal/ business wear? Your waist is your bellybutton, learn to love suspenders.
posted by The Whelk at 10:04 PM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


My dad picked up some suits from a bespoke tailor on Thread Needle Street (next to the Bank of England) back in the '60s and '70s.

He still wears them regularly. And he looks great wearing them.
posted by Araucaria at 10:16 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


My fashion prediction are colored burqas or morphsuits that display our online handles and icons on them.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:40 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was just burqa shopping the other day.., no but seriously, I have a problem with how suits are the corporate uniform. What was worse was when women went in for so-called 'power suits'. Looks really ugly on women, and still no pockets damn it!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:14 PM on September 5, 2011


Speaking as a woman, I'd love it if we had something on par with a suit for formal business wear. It'd make dressing in the morning so much faster. Pants, jacket, shirt, tie, socks and you're out the door. The most time-consuming decisions would probably be 1.) is this clean? 2.) white shirt or colored shirt?

Plus it'd be nice not to have to wear a sweater in my office during the summer.
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:20 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gah. I hate office suits. They never fucking fit right (seriously try buying shirts when you have a 45 cm neck and aren't fat). Ties choke me. They're an exercise in rolling misery.

Which isn't to say I mind dressing up now and then. It's wearing one every day that used to do my head it. And dressing up is more fun with a kilt as a base, anyway.
posted by rodgerd at 11:31 PM on September 5, 2011


Do other people still use 'Suits' as a slur against rich/uptight folks? I do sometimes.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:21 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ties don't choke people. People choke people.
posted by vidur at 12:47 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thought abhors pants.

Or, as Umberto Eco put it, thought abhors tights. Funny thing is, the lounge suit was once the casual successor to tights (i.e. stockings and knee-breeches).

Not sure if he crops up in any of the links, but a thread on old Savile Row ought to mention Hardy Amies, and a couple of his works (1,2). Crusty, but ever-so-slightly tongue-in-cheek, which probably describes one ideal of what the suit is all about.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 3:57 AM on September 6, 2011


Sometimes one feels like going in that direction, but making a fetish out of it is pretty pathetic. Look, the thing that makes the people who wear this stuff - or drive a Ferrari - feel good about their spending is because *other* people are impressed. Think about the rampant insecurity in that.

You don't sound threatened at all!
posted by shakespeherian at 4:52 AM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised that more people haven't given up on trying to wear suits because, face it, 52 years ago, the pinnacle of awesome suit-wearing was established on a fictional cross country adventure, and while it is theoretically possible that a man will look better and cooler doing it, the bar has been set so high, there seems to be little reason to try as most of us will never come close.

North by Northwest: Cary Grant’s Kilgour Suit
posted by MCMikeNamara at 5:35 AM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well-fitting clothes are a status symbol in general, I've noticed. This is one of my pet peeves. Having had varying amounts of disposable income to spend on clothing over my lifetime so far, the difference between how Walmart clothing is cut and how higher-end chain store clothing fits is quite stark (I've never made enough to buy designer clothing, but based on how it looks on people I see wearing it on tv, this trend seems to continue). I'm told that this is even more noticeable for "plus size" clothing. Not sure how much of this is due to assumptions in the fashion industry about the body shapes and style needs/desires of people in different income brackets (the clothes in the "career" sub-section of the women's clothing sections in Walmart or Zellers (= Canadian Kmart equivalent) ... how to say this ... tend to accentuate the wearer's sex in ways that would be at least subtly inappropriate in most professional settings), or if it's all more straightforward snobbery (my understanding is that Walmart level clothing is generally knock-offs of some more expensive brand, which means that they have to intentionally alter the patterns and materials to make it come out more ill-fitting and less attractive, I presume to preserve the "value" of the more expensive brands). And don't even get me started on pockets and durability of materials in men's versus women's clothing and what that says about status... *sigh*.

Random suit anecdote though: my first time through the Atlanta airport I had a long-ish layover, and was sitting around in some central area reading or something when a large number of men in dark suits and white shirts walked by. There were a good 30 or 40 of them total, and they were clumped in a couple different groups: some brawny younger men in the first group; a more mixed age and body-type group next; then a group of older men, with one shorter guy who was about the oldest in the most impeccably tailored suit I have ever seen, in the middle and clearly in charge and giving orders; then a final group of younger brawn. They looked exactly like tv or movie depictions of mafia guys (minus guns, as far as I could see, of course - this was pre-9/11 but still an airport). The interesting thing was that you could tell the relative status of the different guys in the group not just by age and which clump they were in, but by how well their suits fit.
posted by eviemath at 5:41 AM on September 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised that more people haven't given up on trying to wear suits because, face it, 52 years ago, the pinnacle of awesome suit-wearing was established on a fictional cross country adventure

MCMikeNamara, precisely the opposite. Our powers of denial are so strong that after 52 years, we are still convinced that wearing a suit will lead us on an adventure that involves espionage, danger, and sleeping with Eva Marie Saint in the overnight car of a train. Any day now, this suit will come through for me...
posted by deanc at 5:46 AM on September 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


100 years from now, our great-grandkids will be watching holovids about how denim used to be considered "casual wear." An old-timey 2D picture of Steve Jobs will illustrate the beginning of the "transitional period."
posted by straight at 7:23 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't mind wearing suits; putting them on isn't much of a problem. But when you only have occasion to wear a suit once every year or two, they're a ridiculous amount of work and expense.

Should I pull the suit from two years ago out of the closet? Does it still fit? What was my waist size back then? Is this still in style? How the heck would I find out? Get it dry-cleaned, or hope that it has somehow magically preserved its shape on the hangar in the back of the closet? Where's that shirt that went perfectly with it... oh. It's the one from the sushi incident. Shoes... I must have worn shoes with it, but they've long since vanished...

If you don't want to look like you stepped out of the Wal-Mart website, a suit and all its accoutrements will run at least a few hundred dollars, or at least a pretty serious amount of time tracking down something decent online. Suit, shirt, tie, shoes, socks, belt... it's a big investment, and a lot of time and effort, for something that will sit in the back of your closet unused until it no longer fits.

Sure, you look good at that job interview or funeral. But when that's all you'll wear it for, it's an absurd ritual costume.

In summary, fuck suits.
posted by MrVisible at 7:27 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


My sister's husband's nieces (11 and 13) showed up for my mother's wake, funeral and burial service late last Autumn wearing jeans and slippers. Someone must have clued the parents in because when my father died last month those girls wore nice shoes and dresses.

I was wearing a suit both times, (I had to buy it) as were all the men there. It's just someting one does to show repect.

Maybe, Mr.Visible, if you were Mr. Invisible, you could just wear your favorite sweat pants the next time there's a formal occasion you have to attend. In summary, f*ck lazy self-centered slobs.
posted by longsleeves at 8:13 AM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


the only reason suits are 'respectable' is because of the social and aesthetic conventions of the culture. you've decided that it's self centered because there is an absurd ritual costume, like the poster said.
posted by the mad poster! at 8:43 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


pts: "I love suits—I love them—but I hate that I will never make enough money to own really excellent tailored ones."

I might be biased, but this alone is a reason to visit almost any Asian country. Here in Delhi I get beautifully tailored suits made with my chosen wool for under $250. Lucky, as I have never ever been able to find a ready-made blazer that fits my (mis-)shape just right.
posted by vanar sena at 8:51 AM on September 6, 2011


I might be biased, but this alone is a reason to visit almost any Asian country. Here in Delhi I get beautifully tailored suits made with my chosen wool for under $250.

But you have to get there first, which costs a nontrivial amount of money.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:58 AM on September 6, 2011


the lounge suit was once the casual successor to tights (i.e. stockings and knee-breeches).

I never get a chance to show off my shapely calves I hate this century
posted by The Whelk at 9:04 AM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


the only reason suits are 'respectable' is because of the social and aesthetic conventions of the culture. you've decided that it's self centered because there is an absurd ritual costume

Disregarding social and aesthetic conventions is self-centered. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, because our culture should encourage us to dress how we please, but in certain situations where it "isn't about you," (eg, weddings, funerals, other formal events, etc.) you're going to be rightfully taken to task for being self centered by flouting those conventions.

Yes, a suit and its accoutrements are expensive, costing at least a few hundred dollars if you buy them new. But so is a computer and an XBox and a TV, and the suit will last longer.

I bow to no one in my love of sloppy, comfortable dress, but when times require it, I'm going to man up, put on a suit, and not whine about it.
posted by deanc at 9:26 AM on September 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


the only reason it's "manly" vs "whiny" is because you've pummeled yourself into submission. Doesn't mean you don't do something, but at least don't go through life scolding yourself and others into being clueless about the arbitrary nature of these things. Nothing wrong with saying "it's absurd, arbitrary, but required" instead of "fuck you for hating dead people brah!111"
posted by the mad poster! at 9:36 AM on September 6, 2011


The suit will only last a long time if your proportions stay the same, if styles don't change, if somehow it magically survives storage...

I know it's required, I go through it every couple of years, I even look damn good in a suit. But I reserve the right to say it's a stupid tradition that's expensive and divisive; formal events are an amazing burden to poor people. Sending out an invitation to a formal event means you're making any non-wealthy friends you have decide between your friendship, looking stupid, and a few hundred dollars that they can't afford to part with on clothing that they have no other use for.

In summary, fuck suits.
posted by MrVisible at 9:59 AM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


the only reason suits are 'respectable' is because of the social and aesthetic conventions of the culture. you've decided that it's self centered because there is an absurd ritual costume, like the poster said.

Mad Poster, I guess we'll just have to disagree about this. Showing respect to a person who has died is pretty standard, not something I simply "decided."

We also seem to disagree on English grammar. You should use standard quotation marks the next time you misquote someone. (I never used the word "respectable.")
Sentences start with capital letters. Your second sentence is a nightmare. As an exercise, why not re-write the whole comment properly? No need to post it, though.

And Mr. Visible, yes, you should have a suit with two-year-old sweat in it dry cleaned.
posted by longsleeves at 10:16 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


you might want to get your prescription re-checked, because those aren't quotation marks. It's a word with the same root as one you used, and is a reference to the connotations of a style of clothing. This is your problem. You are calcified and hurt about your lack of expansive understanding of matters, and work through a mechanistic litmus. Happily though, I'll be skipping *your* funeral, so you needn't get twisted up about me.
posted by the mad poster! at 10:23 AM on September 6, 2011


mad poster, not saying "ain't" in polite conversation is arbitrary. Not using certain expletives is arbitrary. Presenting and accepting a business card with both hands in Asia is arbitrary. And I'm going to follow all of those conventions when the times require it. And if times require it for the benefit of someone else, and you refuse, then, yes, you're being the very definition of self-centered.

It is not absurd to dress nicely and respectfully at a wedding/funeral/formal event. It is arbitrary that an outfit based on victorian-era styles is the way one dresses nicely and respectfully, but that's what it is. If I grew up and lived in rural India, I'd likely be required to wear some other kind of arbitrarily-chosen outfit for that occasion, but it would not in any way be absurd to be expected to do so.

The reason it's "manly" (or, more to the point, "adult") is not because someone has pummeled him or herself into submission, but because the definition of adulthood is realizing that there are times when "it's not all about you."
posted by deanc at 10:29 AM on September 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


mad poster, not saying "ain't" in polite conversation is arbitrary. Not using certain expletives is arbitrary. Presenting and accepting a business card with both hands in Asia is arbitrary. And I'm going to follow all of those conventions when the times require it. And if times require it for the benefit of someone else, and you refuse, then, yes, you're being the very definition of self-centered.

Sure, there are two layers here. One is whether there is an accurate objective way one thing is 'formal' or respectable vs. 'informal'. That's the one where the fact that a woman wears a dress and a man wears a suit is an absurd dichotomy.

The other layer is 'within the system.' Of course when you're participating in a system, you're cognizant of the context and play within its bounds. The definition of adulthood also includes making choices about to which extent you participate within certain conventions or don't though. That's how social systems evolve.
posted by the mad poster! at 10:35 AM on September 6, 2011


Nothing like a suit or tie thread to bring out the manchildren.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:39 AM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


And the elitist snobs.
posted by MrVisible at 10:51 AM on September 6, 2011


you might want to get your prescription re-checked, because those aren't quotation marks. It's a word with the same root as one you used, and is a reference to the connotations of a style of clothing. This is your problem. You are calcified and hurt about your lack of expansive understanding of matters, and work through a mechanistic litmus. Happily though, I'll be skipping *your* funeral, so you needn't get twisted up about me.

If they're not quotation marks, please enlighten us as to what they are called, you didn't bother to mention.

You are calcified and hurt about your lack of expansive understanding of matters

I see by your subsequent comments that you found the shift key. Good job!
posted by longsleeves at 11:07 AM on September 6, 2011


Top paragraph above was a quote from the Mad Quoter.
posted by longsleeves at 11:09 AM on September 6, 2011


Sorry, I meant Mad Poster.
posted by longsleeves at 11:11 AM on September 6, 2011


And the elitist snobs.

How is a standard outfit available basically everywhere, produced and discarded by the truckload, that has been a men's clothing standard for over 100 years, "elitist"? Yes, it's arbitrary that we've standardized on this outfit/uniform specifically, but it's not like you didn't know. It's almost what is strange about suits: we talk about them in this FPP and look at the Savile Row suits that cost $3000 or more, and yet the men's suit is worn everywhere in the world, by the rich and the poor.

For example, I don't personally like ties, but I know when they're required, and they're sold on every street corner for a pittance.
posted by deanc at 11:18 AM on September 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I just don't know a better term for someone who judges someone else by their clothes.
posted by MrVisible at 11:31 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK, visible, if you happen to attend a formal occasion dressed like it's Saturday morning, and someone remarks on your slobbishness, you just come right back by calling them elitist snobs and go help hourself to the food.
posted by longsleeves at 11:38 AM on September 6, 2011


I avoid formal occasions whenever possible, actually. I find that it's an excellent way to not have to deal with people I don't like.
posted by MrVisible at 11:40 AM on September 6, 2011


I wish I could pull off a nice suit, or at least 'looking like Nick Cave', but I'm too broke and too much of a schlub.

Nick Cave buys some of his custom suits from Duchess Clothier. Not cheap, but potentially save-up-able.
posted by feckless at 11:46 AM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


What I learned from this thread is that it's respectful to show up nude for a wedding.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:53 AM on September 6, 2011


What do you expect when you have it in a hot tub.
posted by The Whelk at 12:00 PM on September 6, 2011


Champagne.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:18 PM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Doesn't anyone you know ever get married or die?
Of course.
In those events, a simple sport coat and pants suffice.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:00 PM on September 6, 2011


Should I pull the suit from two years ago out of the closet? Does it still fit? What was my waist size back then?

Fair enough concerns but, provided you have some warning of the impending occasion to wear a suit, there should be plenty of time to get it altered. Most suits will accommodate a number of adjustments to account for weight gain or loss and the cost shouldn't be extortionate for that (compared to buying a new suit anyway).

I realise that I've extracted these concerns from a list of many more but these ones are at least addressable.
posted by MUD at 3:46 PM on September 6, 2011


provided you have some warning of the impending occasion to wear a suit

you usually don't get much warning for funerals?
posted by madcaptenor at 7:16 PM on September 6, 2011


Apparently I don't understand punctuation. That was meant to be a statement, not a question.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:17 PM on September 6, 2011


you usually don't get much warning for funerals?

3 days seems to be the norm in NZ between "someone dying" and "the funeral", and if it's an expected death there's more.

TBH if I didn't have a suit for an important funeral or somesuch I'd probably just go rent.
posted by rodgerd at 8:44 PM on September 10, 2011


Crafting this post opened this Buccaneer-American's eyes to the fact that I could actually get an article of clothing I owned and wore tailored. Never even considered the idea that alterations were something a person like me could afford/would get. University Ave ain't Savile Row, but I pick up my jacket on Thursday. And if this works out, I will probably go back, after a lifetime of not-quite-fitting clothes.

Also, can someone identify the accent of the Jenny apprentice in pt 3 who says "I asked myself what do I like to see, and came up with Good looking men in beautiful, well-made suits"? Not that I'm particularly well-versed in British regional accents, but I watch bit of British TV and can generally tell Yorkshire from Cockney, and I don't have a handle on her accent in the least.

posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:20 AM on September 19, 2011


Every now and then I have to appear at some semi formal event. Not necessarily a suit event but a smart event. It's not somewhere I can lurch up in jeans. I got tired of trying to find decent trousers in stores; stylish, comfortable, well cut, enough pocket room and so on.
I decided to take myself off to a bespoke tailor and get myself sorted out. I have never regretted it. Bespoke tailored clothes are not a fast shopping experience; it is touching on the edge of a little know art. It took about 3 weeks from first entering the shop doorway, discussing and choosing the cloth; that took a long time, the variety was much greater than I had initially considered; then first measuments, discussion of finer detail; then first fitting, second fitting and final alteration and voila a pair of trousers. Fifteen years on they are still my first choice for that "presentable" event. I highly advise it to anyone who has the means, it is an interesting and therefore rewarding experience.
Quality always wins out.
posted by adamvasco at 12:58 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Lexica hipped me to this article on the increase in the number of women customers the Savile Row tailors are seeing (except for Edward Sexton, whose been serving female customers for decades). Women like Annie Lennox and Kate Moss are going bespoke. (pdf)
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:01 AM on September 24, 2011


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