The tie does: it was originally the neck scarf worn by Croatian mercenaries. “Cravat” from Croat.
The modern business suit of dark jacket over contrasting shirt with matching dark pants started as the clothing worn by 17th C. Dutch business men. In this, businessman attire was more “uniform” than actual military costume by a few years.
The Thirty Years War of the 17th C. was mostly a come-as-you are affair; a mess sartorially as well as mass-killing-wise. The reforms afterward included large standing armies maintained by the new nation states. By the early 18th C., armies were wearing uniforms: English redcoats, French in white, etc.
In WWI, the British changed from stock-collared tunics to jackets with lapels over shirts and ties. The new look symbolized new ideas, which was illustrated at the court martial of Billy Mitchell, where the tribunal was wearing the old stock collars and the forward-thinking aviation advocates were in ties and lapels. The Germans adopted it when they discarded much of the old Imperial Ruritarian fashions, and really ran wild with the contrasting lapel thing
No. The men’s suit has evolved from Gentlemanly Attire fo the 17th century. (Warning–the graphic accompanying this article includes The Leisure Suit.)
I occasionally hit one of the nice new bars downtown after work–mostly it appears to be lawyers who still wear suits. One natty gentleman had one in a lightweight fabric–& I think a bow tie. (Everything down here is air conditioned, anyway.)
It’s great that many men can wear business casual. But refusing to* ever *wear a suit is childish. If it’s too tight, get a new one & have it tailored. A well-made suit can do wonders for an imperfect physique.
Another possible subtle point - wearing a suit conveys that you make/have enough money to afford the clothes and have them dry cleaned. Also that you employ other people to clean your clothes rather than doing your own laundry. Of course, many nonprofessionals have their uniforms provided by a service…
Suits are silly things.
A jacket that you might wear in the summer and in the winter you need an overcoat for.
Also, it has a lapel that doesn’t cover a big V on your chest so people can see your shirt and tie. Has anyone ever buttoned that up all the way when it’s cold? They aren’t really made to do that.
Plus you need matching pants so you have a whole outfit going on.
They look good though.
Why do women were dresses or skirted suits and pantyhose (arguably one of the least durable item of clothing ever invented) and shoes with heels? Because these are the accepted formal business attire of western culture.
Yeah, we’ve had hugely contentious threads here in the past about attire and people (mostly men) refusing to ever wear anything, ever, but their personal “uniform,” whether it be t-shirt and jeans, hawaiian shirt, whatever. Grandma’s funeral? Daughter’s wedding? You won’t catch me dead in a suit. And to that I say grow up.
All other things being equal, at work the one wearing the suit is in charge. A suit sends a social signal just like a T-shirt from a rock concert does. The suit says, this is an occasion serious enough to dress up for, and I am a serious enough person to signal that. I am not relaxing, I am not entertaining myself - I am working.
Plus, it saves me the humiliation of my daughter shaking her head at me and saying, “Daddy, you are not leaving the house dressed like that”.
Alan Watts, the philosopher and Zen Buddhist, wrote a fascinating book called Does it Matter? containing a bunch of essays on the material world. The one on clothing addressed this. He said that Americans were aping British/European fashion, which was nutsy-coocoo because a wool suit that would be comfortable in London or in a Mediterranean climate is pure hell in the stinking humidity of a New York, Washington, or Chicago summer. And a deeper circle of hell in Atlanta or Dallas.
He recommended switching to guayaberas, the men’s formal attire of Central America and the Caribbean.
Another awful thing about suits is the over-airconditioning it requires in offices to allow the men to remain comfortable. Since the women are more likely to wear light dresses or other climate-appropriate outfits, most of them need to keep cardigans – or down parkas – at work.
The main reason for wearing a suit is to show you conform. I think the purpose of a tie is to restrict oxygen from the brain (cf. the British expression: too clever by half).
In 1990, when my mother was dying, I bought a suit to wear to her funeral. I wore it once more in 2000 when I was made emeritus and there was a fancy dinner after (I wore a gown for the actual ceremony). I rented a tux for my son’s wedding in 1992 and again for my other son in 1996. When my daughter had an informal wedding in 2004, my wife insisted the 1990 suit was out of fashion and insisted that I buy another. Which I wore again for the wedding of the son of a close friend.
A good friend got a job teaching at a small university in eastern Mass in 1993. One day when he was dressed in a sport jacket and wearing a tie, he ran into an older colleague who harumphed and said, “A gentleman’s jacket matches his trousers.” So there you have it. It is an older generation’s way of demonstrating gentlemanhood.
The last time I wore a suit for real was probably 1994. I had a couple made here in Bangkok in 1990 but it’s just too damned hot here for suits. Only politicians and high-powered business executives wear them. The two I had made in Bangkok in 1990 are too small now, and I can’t imagine wasting money on having another one made.
Well, yes and no. By that logic, having to wear pants to work is “showing you conform”. The point is to conform to a higher standard of dress. But even restricted to wearing suits, there are a wide variety of colors, styles and accessories that enable someone to express their own individuality.