On Suits

BY ANDY NALEWSKI

As an English major, I had to take classes on various types of literature. Most were enjoyable, but I loathed the ones that focused on a single poet; I had the displeasure of partially making my way through a course on Byron, a poet and politician of the early 19th century. His prose was fancy and eloquent, but the vast majority of his life had me teary-eyed from boredom. There was one aspect of his life, however, that fancied me; he dressed well.

He had a deep affection for one Beau Brummel, a man who valued fashion high among the many things that made him who he was. The eloquence of his dress (and a certain piece of music composed by ZZ Top,) served as the inspiration for my favorite attire and – I say it with the best of meanings – pastime.

The suit is made of many things - the coat and undershirt are your base; they say what you want them to say. The tie – especially the knot – is a focal point, the first thing your eyes lay upon once you recognize the person in the suit. The slacks and shoes come last, unless they do not match the color of your coat (which I find to be tacky).

I frequently go through the trouble of following a patented yet unconscious formula of mine to get the right fit, but it always seems in vain; I find that I don’t have enough occasion to dress myself in such a way, so I often invent them. A simple day to school could be marked with fancy dress due to a whimsical subconscious event. I enjoy those days – they make me feel important, clean, and insipidly presentable.

Yet, the social norm mandates special occasions to dress like this. Funerals, weddings, dances – why? Why must fancy be constrained by ceremony? I know I have never subscribed to such a thing. I dress fancy when I please, and it pleases me greatly. There are, of course, downsides, and the weather is one of the worst. Living in New England entails hot summers and frigid winters, and a suit is not always the best dress for the climate. In the spring and fall, we may wear our suits freely, and bask in the temperate moments. In the two other seasons, we are forced to accessorize. For instance, at this time, October 19th, in temperatures that peak at 45 degrees, I wore a suit coat. I was forced to wear a wool coat over it – fashionable, yes, but clunky, and I was forced to strip when I arrived in the heated main building of my school. In the summer, I have sport coats that are far too hot and thick to be worn comfortably, and must resort to others more suited to the temperature. Nevertheless, dressing nice should not be so reliant on things such as occasion or weather.

My stance comes from a love of the modern suit. The lapels and ties and shoes beckon me to wear them, especially when I’m feeling happy. On days when I am glum, I find myself resorting to the dreaded sweatpants and baggy hoodies that reflect laziness and poor hygiene. On neutral days, I opt for jeans and a button down. But on happy days, as all others, my dress reflects my person. There are still other days when I have a mix of feelings. Today, with my suit coat and wool overcoat, I wore a linen shirt, with black jeans and boots. This is a quasi-casual wardrobe for me, and I find I’m wearing it more and more often, especially in the winter months, wear the thin pants that a suit has offer little protection from the cold.

This sort of appearance is also rather forced by my particular financial situation; wearing a suit that needs to be dry cleaned, especially in weather where the roads and sidewalks are laced with snow and salt, isn’t always the smartest move. Even more expensive than cleaning a suit is a suit itself; they cost hundreds, and even thousands if you opt for quality. As a broke college student, I’m more inclined to dress in my quasi-casual way. The suit coat I wore today? Twelve dollars at the Salvation Army.

Such cheapness opens the door for many different styles and colors. What matches with black? Everything, I say. Reds to show a demonic and intimidating tone; blues to reflect a friendly professionalism. And Purple – oh those royal hues! – to demonstrate a (in my case, fake) cautious ere of opulence.