General Question

pleiades's avatar

Is there any science suggesting why one might be attracted to the aesthetic of the suit?

Asked by pleiades (6523 points ) May 21st, 2014

Or does the suits meaning supersede the aesthetic? For you anyways.

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12 Answers

GloPro's avatar

It’s a combination. I love a tailored, well-fitting suit. A sloppy, baggy suit off of a rack doesn’t carry the same appeal, so it isn’t just the meaning of the suit. It is definitely aesthetic as well.

JLeslie's avatar

I think we are socialized in America, and other western cultures, to see a suit as a symbol of power and authority.

Also, a suit can hide our bulges and create a trendy silhouette. The stiff structured fabric creates a neat and sharp look.

When casual business attire became more and more popular some people believed that it would hurt women because men in a khaki pant and polo shirt still was given respect, while a woman might more easily look too casual and taken less serious. Suits and heals tend to lift women to the same level as men in terms of visual perception. Hopefully, now that matters less and less and women are taken seriously no matter what they wear.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Suits are just a civilianized (is that a word?) adaptation of a military uniform.

Aesthetics aren’t really the issue here – rather, a suit is a way of management asserting (or sometimes requiring) uniformity and consistency among employees, just as the military requires uniforms and follows a highly regimented dress code. The only difference is that in private industry, we have evolved to light colored shirts (not just white – as was the case 30 years ago) and there is little bit of creativity in terms of tie choice.

The whole concept of “casual Fridays” and “business casual” is a slow evolution from top down management to more participatory and inclusive corporate environments. Strict regimentation – militaristic – doesn’t always increase productivity.

Even for women, the “suit culture” is rampant. Look at all the women who where suits (either pants suits or two pieced womens tailored suits) to work. Some even have taken to wearing ties with their suits. Why? Because corporate culture demands uniformity and the suit is still the way that is expressed.

Side note: consider the per capita number of office workers on the west coast that wear suits, to the number of office workers on the east coast. Far higher in the east. And what part of the US is more creative? (Silicon Valley)

Bottom line – suits represent authoritarianism and a top down regimented outlook. That’s a reflection of society.

JLeslie's avatar

@elbanditoroso Northeast. FL has been casual for a long time. Raleigh, NC is the silicone valley of the south and tends to be business casual. Maybe since the tech industries tend to require higher education or higher level “thinking” at all levels, the organizations tend to be flatter? Weather has something to do with it too. Much easier to wear a suit in cold weather. Larger cities also tend to be more formal, and certain industries are still more formal at work. I agree suits are a uniform of sorts. For women it is a reliable uniform. Casual clothes for women comes in a huge variety.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

Most people are such herd animals/drones that they need to look like one another. The suit makes this possible.
Interestingly, the suit always includes the tie, the symbolic slave collar choking the life out of man.

pleiades's avatar

@Dan_Lyons That’s an interesting take. Makes sense. It’s also the same as companies requiring men to shave their beards. I personally think someone who couldn’t grow a nice beard started that rule.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

@pleiades I agree about the scraggly bearded boss who outlawed beards. I shave every third day whether i need it or not (I always do).
I don’t own a suit nor a tie nor good shoes (only a pair of sneakers and some sandals).

But I don’t hold it against those who have not yet decided to cast off the shackles of their slave life and try to live like free human beings.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dan_Lyons I don’t like to think of it as shackles. Dressing as expected happens in many places, not just work. Dress codes tend to help women especially more than harm them.

LostInParadise's avatar

Considering how much clothing style has changed historically, I would guess that most of the appeal of suits is cultural. For Romans, formal wear was a toga and in the 18th century powdered wigs were fashionable.

Most companies no longer require suits. The general style is what has been called business casual.

I have no particular interest in clothing, but I like the idea that we can afford to wear different sets of clothing for different purposes – at home working in the yard, going to the mall, going out on the town and going to the beach can all have different sets of clothes.

It is a little harsh to say that the clothes we choose relate to conformity. Generally speaking, I don’t want what I wear to stand out, just as I don’t want my style of grammar to stand out. It is meant to fade into the background so that I can say and do things that I do want to stand out.

bolwerk's avatar

The aesthetic seems to emphasize the masculine form, while downplaying sexuality and emphasizing formality. Perhaps it’s appealing because it reflects the mood of the workplace – boring colors, but also visually distinct.

@elbanditoroso: I think suits are bourgeois in origin, and have little to do with the military. Aristocrats would wear fancy, colorful clothing, while the middle class (merchants) would wear a drab color.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Of course:

The expertly fitted suit compliments, thus enhancing an appearance of health. The significance of this to the Biological Imparative is well… now academic.

But modern natural selection adds more:

The flattering suit comes at at least some expense, suggesting the ability and will to provide for the offspring.

As for the meaning and the aesthetic, for me they are one and the same:

A complimentary and quality suit is not only simply attractive but it tells the sort that I wish to interact with that I know some things.

Why a particular fabric and much more importantly cut succeeds is not a mystery to me or the result of an accident.

It tells certain others that I know the rules, and know which ones I can break in the name of style, or should I say MY style.

In other words, I also possess creativity.

longgone's avatar

“83% of intelligent males adore suits.”
Barney Stinson

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