Monday, July 21, 2014

My Suit is Chafing Me (Part Twix)

This follow up goes all the way back to 9th January, 2006 back when I wore a suit. In direct follow up to the content of that post, over the three years I worked at that place my attire got increasingly casual. Never quite actual casuals, but my slacks went from having creases to not and I virtually wore the same 4-5 polo shirts through rotation. I got pretty casual, and I also got promoted.

My wardrobe contains not even the full complement of items that comprise a suit now. If I had to wear a suit tomorrow I would have to spend a couple of hunges tonight. I solved my own problem and thus never really had to think about the cultural phenom that is 'the suit'.

Here's the thing, one of my jobs carries with it far less prestige than the job I had in 2006. I used to work for one of the world's top 100 brands, I now work for one that might be lucky to scrape into the top 1000, certainly not recognizable to anybody I meet at parties.

But on the upside, I don't have to wear a suit. But above my head, on the next floor up (or 4, I can't remember) a bunch of people do walk around in suits, or more gender neutrally 'professional attire'.

I'm surprised at how much I agree with 2006-me. The problem that professional attire may convince you that you are indeed professional, is still a problem. In fact, why do so many people spend so many years in university learning business and the best they can do is a buy a nice suit at the end of it?

Anyways, part two on suits is this.

There's a lot about life that is essential and unglamorous. Like taking a shit, and it can give rise to other desirable but unglamorous practices - like wiping your arse. Maybe Monica Belluci could pull these off glamorously, but she doesn't need to meet that challenge.

Anyway, shitting is essential, and wiping your arse is quasi essential. As such, they are good businesses to be in. Sewege, toilet paper manufacture, toilet manufacture, plumbing etc.

When was the last time you saw an ad for toilet paper where they compared how much shit two brands picked up from a hairy arse?

I would guess: never.

Because shitting is unglamorous. Even when you belong to a clandestine group of super elites that shit on a young nubile woman under glass at a secret gathering. Nobody wants the reality of the toilet paper associated with the reality of what it's for in the tv spot.

So adds use proxy's about softness, cuddliness, pleasant scents etc. to dissociate from the shit that makes the product so desirable.


That's my current problem with suits. Not just that they are seen as a proxy for professionalism. Professional attire is a class issue as well. It's a way to dissociate from the unpleasant and unglamorous realities of our businesses.

I work in a call center. At a bbq, standing with a Doctor, a Lawyer and Philosophy Doctrate, I rank lower even than the Philosophy Doctor. But why? Just a short elavator ride up and I am a 'Market Researcher' or perhaps even a 'Researcher'. I wear a suit and interpret numbers. And I know where those numbers come from.

They come from a bunch of kids and former drug addicts and musicians and visual artists calling up people at home and reading garbled technically stated sentences to people who speak english.

But suits allow them to believe they are intellectual and professional. Segregated Christmas parties allow them to believe they are not in the business that they are in. And it all leaves them vulnerable, not just unglamorous market research, but lawyers that represent drug dealers and motorcycle gangs, sales 'executives', art gallery curators etc. pretty much anywhere you have a 'head office'

You think the McDonald's executives in Atlanta or wherever wear visors, hair nets and coloured uniforms? No. They wear shirts. Ties. Leather shoes.

And it creates a disconnect that I feel is the private escapist dream of almost everyone who doesn't care about the work they do. They just want to get as far away from how they make money as they possibly can so that their salary becomes a lottery ticket. Perhaps. Perhaps they just need their life to be full of trappings to convince them they are necessary and important when they feel deeply within themselves that they are neither of these things.

I don't know. But suits still chafe me.

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