“Why are you so dressed up?” I’m confronted with the question routinely and take it in good humor – as I believe it is intended to be a mild jibe spawning from the interrogator’s own somewhat slovenly attire. The bigger question may be, why do we wear suits at all?
As I pull together these thoughts wearing a grey herringbone that’s pushing 15 years old, I realize it’s a bit worn but more than adequate to keep out the cold. The tie was a gift; but alas, the giver has been forgotten to time. The white shirt is from my favorite purveyor in Hong Kong, Jimmy Chen in the Peninsula Hotel; but, for the first time my attention is drawn to the slight fraying at the cuff from countless trips to the laundry, always with heavy starch. I remember ordering it on my first visit to that dynamic and booming city. The exact year eludes me, yet it was more than a decade ago. The shoes are relatively new. A while back, I equivocated in my stance of perpetually re-soleing and began to only allot those resources to the very best footwear. The rest, well, are put to rest as soon as the heels lose their shape.
So, back to the question. I’m wearing a suit in large part because I always have. It reminds me of civilization, and custom, and tradition, and seriousness. It’s not to impress. It’s not to intimidate. It’s not to seek comfort. And, it’s not to make a statement of personal superiority.
It’s a uniform. It signals that I’m ready to work. It communicates that I respect you, our interaction, and myself enough to shave my face, shine the shoes, and tie a cravat. Isn’t that reason enough? It’s less about custom tailoring and more about tailoring a custom.