Corporate culture continues to change or evolve, and the suit now seems to be headed in the same direction of the buggy whip. Not long ago, however, there were practical and professional reasons to wear a suit and tie while doing business. First and foremost, the suit was a way of demonstrating respect for those you were doing or hoped to do business. We dressed every business day – including Fridays – as if on a job interview. The suit was in effect a uniform for business. In the morning, donning suit and tie got me in the frame of mind to go out and make something happen. Taking the suit and tie off at the end of the day meant a transition back to personal life and leisure. The shifts into and out of the uniform helped establish order to the day and rhythm to life in general.
We had rules to guide us, sometimes in the form of both written and unwritten corporate dress codes. The rules were willingly accepted and followed, making it easy to meet expectations and fit into the corporate culture. Dress standards developed and got incorporated into the culture to facilitate cohesion and instill an attitude of success. There was the saying “fake it till you make it,” which meant it was essential for rookies to spend more money on quality suits and furnishings then their paychecks initially allowed. It was necessary to appear well dressed in any company from the beginning. So we scrimped elsewhere to buy a Brooks Brothers suit. Once up and running, we built our wardrobes and enjoyed dressing as professionals.
I still occasionally break out one of my go-to relic uniforms, which consists of a Brooks Brothers navy suit; lightly starched Brooks OCBD white shirt; Brooks Argyle & Sutherland tie; Brooks alligator belt with engraved sterling silver buckle (a gift from a long-ago girlfriend); and, Brooks shell cordovan tassel loafers. The shoes and belt are more than 30 years old and the suit 20. The shirts and ties get replaced more frequently. While it might be comfortable to be casual, I miss the order instilled by the suit and tie business uniform. Alas, I realize and reluctantly accept that those days are in the proverbial rearview mirror.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are that of an aging white male Boomer, otherwise known as a relic. — BC