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Mistaking the suit for power and respect instead of the act - The Autobiography of Russell
Life from a different perspective
Mistaking the suit for power and respect instead of the act
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legolastn From: legolastn Date: May 3rd, 2013 01:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've always personally not been a "suit guy" - I own (exactly one) suit and a few suit jackets but I rarely wear them. It's hard enough to get me into a tie or jacket. At work I generally wear a button-up shirt and dress slacks, but post-tenure that will probably change to jeans and maybe t-shirts (since I like t-shirts as a message medium). I think the last time I wore the suit I have was on my last job interview (3 years ago), and it's generally been the case I only wear them for job interviews, occasions like weddings or funerals, and events specified as suit-and-tie.

I guess based on my upbringing and the circles I travel within as an adult I've never equated a suit with power or respect or even money, at least in a direct way. Really not even professionalism although I think that might be closer. I think the tightest association I have with suits is "seriousness." Which is to say that wearing a suit is an indicator to me that you are a Serious Person(tm) and/or that you (believe you) are at/going to/have been at a serious occasion. That can be a positive or a negative. Certainly people with money or power are often Serious People(tm) and/or commonly engaged in Serious Transactions/Interactions(tm), so there is an association there, but only secondarily. Growing up, even in poor families we knew the men had suits - but they only came out for church and/or special occasions. On the flip side of the coin, although higher ed administrators usually wear suits among the faculty those with the most power and money (and, often, respect) tend to be the ones who can choose not to wear a suit most freely. And usually that indicates they're more casual or informal with their students and colleagues.

I think class socialization is no doubt part of the whole thing. I show my intro soc students a video on class where one a working class guy talks about how when salespeople come to his workplace he tells them to take their suit and tie off before he will talk to them. And I think a lot of lower-to-working class people have a distrust, rather than (or in addition to) a respect for the suit. It can represent the boss, the Man. But for those with a more middle-to-upper class upbringing I think it's less problematically (for them) associated with status, which in turn is equated with respect and professionalism.
zimzat From: zimzat Date: May 21st, 2013 06:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
The thing I wonder about going to job interviews in a suit and tie, as someone who has sat on the other side of the table, is what this person will really be like and dress like on a day to day basis. That's the person I want to see when I'm evaluating them for a job. If they come into the job the first day in raggy shorts and a holey wife beater I think we're going to have a problem. I want to know they have decent clothes for their day to day too. Ahem. Getting a bit too technical here.

I don't own any suits, though I do own several ties. Black slacks is the closest I get to dress pants though I almost never wear it.

I hear what you're saying about the view of suits from different social situations. I suspect your upbringing and/or field of study has made you even more aware of the situation from an outside perspective. I would like to think academia is even better placed to realize this and change their behavior than the rest of the business world is. Maybe I should go into academia? heh, I have entertained the idea a few times as where to go with my career path.
5 comments or Leave a comment