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Suiting Up

Think back to any American family’s dinner table circa 1950: two children, a husband and wife. The wife is probably wearing an apron after presumably preparing the meal, and the husband’s briefcase and hat can be found on the counter, his black suit a tad wrinkly from the day’s work. This was the norm for almost two decades; not so much the dinner, but the suit. Since the day’s of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby suits have been a hallmark of the male wardrobe. However, today’s upper-crust of society appears to be wearing outfits that would have Robert Redford, Sean Connery, and Clint Eastwood vomiting all over themselves. But how did this once rigid, formal, fashion norm transform into what now appears to be just another outfit? The question appears to have no easy answer, but if one thing is for certain, it’s this: the perception of the suit and tie has become increasingly less formal with the passage of time, probably because of a fundamental shift in human behavior and fashion culture.


  1. Suit in the workplace
    1. Business suit has been expectation in the workplace forever
      1. Dress shirt fabrics, tie knots, very strict expectations in 19th/20th centuries
    2. Casual Friday is a lot more casual, or people wear “less casual suits”
      1. Casual Friday didn’t exist back in the day
    3. Why?
      1. Advancements in workplace behavior, decreasing role of human presence in the workplace
        1. Less blue v white collar
  2. Suit in public
    1. Men used to hit bars, public places after work in “work clothes”
      1. Now wearing a business suit to work is no longer the norm
  3. Exotic fabrics, patterns, accessories have detracted from suit, making it more of a social statement than a norm
    1. Less people used to make better quality suits
      1. Now more people make better quality suits, driving up the price of good ones, and making not-so-good ones more accessible
        1. This is good for people who need one, but also contributes to social division
          1. Reflects changing aspect of wealth, reflects the shift of the American economy from manufacturing to goods and services
            1. Look at shirts (Oxford to now) and fabric
  4. Now, there’s different levels of suiting
    1. Dinner jacket, suit jacket, sports jacket, blazer
      1. Difference didn’t used to exist
  5. Suits on Celebrities
    1. Inappropriate representation of shift
      1. Rather, look at small business owners, large companies where dress codes exist
        1. Reflects expansion of economy as well
          1. More small businesses = less formalwear on the clock
            1. Used to be large business that employed a lot more people
              1. Now we our economy diversified, producing more services than it does products, lessening the need for a uniform
  6. Bespoke vs. Non-Bespoke
    1. Celeb suits cost more than American mortgage payments, seriously
      1. The fact that more suits are available for a cheaper price indicates that it’s still the hallmark of professional attire
        1. Athletes, celebs, are more about standing out, making a statement, promoting themselves, not necessarily professionalism or a giant corporation
          1. Those who represent businesses, firms of any kind still rock what looks the best – and that’s not velvet, brightly colored, squeezing every square inch, or 5000 dollars


Thus, we see that a change in the way a suit is worn has reflected economic and behavioral trends in America over the last century and a half or so. Like various other facets of our nation’s culture, we tend to build a psyche around what we see, feel, and hear the most, even if it is not generally representative of the issue or item at hand. Suits are no exception to this case, as many of us probably salivate over the likes of Tom Ford, Gucci, and various other bespoke artisans. However, although the trend indicates that suits have indeed become more accessible in general, the upper crust has become thinner, per say. There is still more than meets the eye when it comes to looking sharp, though, as proven by the way that millions of American men now go to work: untucked, unshaven, and under less pressure from onerous corporations or economic policy.


  1. Summarizing
  2. connect back to the theory
  3. thesis
  4. significance


  1. literary review/reason for theory
    1. who has already analyzed shift – what are people saying
    2. Reasons for shift
  2. Analysis
    1. Primary sources/research
    2. Topical structure, avoid retelling history






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