A well-tailored suit can look very flattering on you. But suits are also uncomfortable, impractical and expensive to buy and maintain. This is especially so with the hot and humid climate in Singapore. So what is the rationale why people still put on such an uncomfortable piece of clothing? Let’s have a look at some of the reasons why people suit up.
Extremely Brief History Of Suits
The word “suit” comes from the French term suivre, which means “to follow”. It means that the jacket has to have the same fabric as the pants.
The first “suits” in the 17th century look quite different from the modern suits that we are familiar with today. You can see how the suit eventually evolved into the modern version.
Jobs That Require Suits
There are certain jobs that might require you to wear formal attire to look professional at the workplace and for clients.
- Real Estate Agent
Occasions To Put On A Suit
Besides wearing a suit to your job, there are some important and special occasions where putting on a suit is called for. This is especially so in Singapore where we tend to be pretty casual. It signals subliminally that you care about the occasion to both yourself and to the other party.
- Job Interview
- Red Carpet
- Award Ceremony
Tradition And Norms
There might be unspoken rules where a suit is required attire. It might not be stated explicitly but it is understood that you need to be wearing a formal suit or else you will risk being underdressed. When you are underdressed, you will stand out and people might judge you.
No one bothers to stop and question the norm. It is just that it is the way that it is for the past few decades. The people who wore a suit everywhere in the past are also now at the management level. These people are the ones dictating the rules. Even if the times have changed, it is unlikely that there will be a change in the dress code in some companies and occasions.
Even if a suit is not warranted, a shirt, tie and pants are typically the minimum standards expected for formal occasions or at some office jobs.
However, as we work from home more often during the “new normal”, fewer people are wearing suits such that suits are taken off the UK consumer price index.
Although suits are worn less during everyday life some of us still wear them to important occasions like weddings or funerals and interviews.
Sense Of Professionalism
That said, there are reasons why wearing a suit is warranted. A well-fitting suit makes you look different from the ordinary joe and also accentuates the good and hides the bad points of your figure. Putting on a suit can make someone look like a figure of authority and someone of importance.
Property agents to lawyers and government leaders want people to trust them and wearing a suit is part of the package.
The dress code is there to persuade you that they are trustworthy and professional, attempting to add weight to their words and actions. People also typically only wear formal clothing to important occasions so if you see someone wearing a suit, you will take subconsciously take them more seriously. So when they try to persuade you to buy a product or believe their words, there is a higher chance of you converting.
However, not every suit works. If the suit is ill-fitting, you will look more like a sleazy salesman than a trusted professional.
With covid, fewer people are wearing suits and instead, going for more casual forms of business wear. This might increase the effect of wearing a suit as it is perceived that only the most called-for events will warrant suit wearing.
Getting Your Game Face On
Wearing a suit not only works on others but also works on yourself. Wear a suit signals to yourself that you are going to do something important so that you turn your game face on. It is like a ritual that you are leaving your comfort zone at home and into a different mode for working. Wearing a suit can also make you feel more powerful and think more “big-picture” instead of getting stuck on the nitty-gritty.
People who wear formal clothes also describe themselves as more competent and rational, while people who dress casual casually describe themselves as more friendly and laid-back.
Suits Vs Casual Clothes
We can look at this social experiment where the public is more willing to save a person wearing a suit instead of someone just wearing casual clothes.
This might not be representative of all occasions but we can see the reason why is this so. When we see someone in a suit, first, it attracts our attention and it looks like someone important has fainted. However, when we see someone in casual clothing faint, they might look like a drunk or homeless person. These are people that the general public tends to avoid or ignore and the public is used to the circumstance when this group of people just lie on the street.
Bonus – White Lab Coats
Previously, from dental to cleaning and medical products, the spokesperson in the ad sometimes wears a lab coat and sometimes even a stethoscope. These people are acting as scientists and doctors, which makes them more trustworthy. But the truth is that most of them are just actors. Acting as these professionals gives the illusion that the product is endorsed by them. I am not sure when did it start but if you notice ads today, the person speaking in the ads does not wear lab coats anymore.
According to the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice Appendix F, it states there should not be any words or images that may imply or suggest the product is “recommended, prescribed or approved by medical practitioners”.
Although the section pertains to only medicinal and related products, I think it should apply to all products. Scientists and doctors are highly respectable occupations in our society so we should not be abusing their image in pushing products to consumers.
Judge Based On Actions Over Clothing
There might or might not be an ulterior motive for someone wearing a suit. They might want to appeal to our subconscious or just plainly want to look good. We can never know.
Always try to judge a person by their actions and not their attire. We should keep this in mind constantly as we tend to trust and treat someone dressed up differently.
Don’t automatically trust someone in a suit.
Don’t automatically distrust someone in casual clothing.
There are various jobs and occasions that warrant the wearing of suits. The effect of suits can work on both the audience and yourself. People tend to treat people wearing suits differently as compared to someone wearing casual clothes. Look at the actions behind the suits and don’t just respect someone based on their attire.
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