The Suit

The Suit:

The business suit is a very odd garment, if you pause to think about it. If you are like me, and wear one perhaps three times a year, you think about its oddness every time you don one. It is made of wool on the outside, unless it is silk or broadcloth; but feels like satin pajamas on the inside. In this as in its color scheme, it is exactly backwards, according to Chesterton: "Becket wore a hair shirt under his gold and crimson, and there is much to be said for the combination; for Becket got the benefit of the hair shirt while the people in the street got the benefit of the crimson and gold. It is at least better than the manner of the modern millionaire, who has the black and the drab outwardly for others, and the gold next his heart."

Neither is the wool on the outside the kind of sturdy wool that holds up to serious wear. It is so thin as to tear at the slightest catch. And it is not wool to keep you warm: if there is any frost about, you will need another coat besides your "coat."

And of course it is worn with the necktie, that sketch at a scarf that does nothing to really warm the throat. The sole surviving purpose of the necktie is to give an otherwise stolid garment the opportunity for individual flair; but not too much!

The Economist celebrates this odd garment, on its 150th anniversary. That is the formal date they assign it: but the roots, they say, go back to Charles II, the Merry Monarch, best of the Stuart kings.

It proves to have an interesting story, in other words: and that may save the thing, which otherwise fails my usual tests for garments on every level.

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