Last week I was at a work conference celebrating 25 years of the company I work for. As per usual, there is the standard “Big Dinner”. While I enjoy good food, these dinners are always totally painful for me. Sitting at the table for hours to work our way through a meagre 3-course dinner, trying to engage the others round the table in small-talk (something I’m truly terrible at, though I can talk up a real storm if we actually have something real to discuss) and enduring painful entertainment, often in-house efforts so painfully awful the room must look like 300 “Scream” masks to the performers. Hang on though, I’m veering off track now, I wanted to focus on another aspect of this.
What I found myself pondering on this occasion was how there was a point made in the invitation that we should all “Dress nice”. Now, if you have been reading my posts up to this point, you’ll know I’m not a suit and tie guy. The only suit I own is my grandfathers old suit from 1945. I tell a lie, I might actually have another one. Somewhere. A cheap and probably really nasty one I bought for a job interview in the UK back in 1993. I didn’t get the job, and I don’t think I ever wore it again. It may have been down to the suit. I digress again.
So, “dress nice”. To me, this means wear something nice. So I wore my nice dark ARN Mercantile trousers with the small herringbone pattern. Quite skinny, flattering my legs. A white Oxford shirt, button down collar, as is my preference. My colourful Madras-checked Cabourn waistcoat, which always makes me feel happy. And one of my pairs of Grenson X Barbour shoes, as they feel really special. Go ahead, admonish me if you like for wearing big country brogues in a dinner setting, but I won’t listen, they’re just so nice.
All the ladies dress up in their finest fineries, fancy shoes, hair all done, made up to the nines and so forth. Really making an effort to look nice. It’s really quite touching, seeing how much thought and work goes into it. Compared to the ladies there is so little expectation to how we men dress. Shower, shave, a whiff of smell (most likely a nice deodorant, as oozing some powerful after-shave is more often a bad idea than good), and some smart clothes.
And then we arrive at the men. I find myself sighing just thinking about it. We’re talking wall to wall dark suits. Like an audition for Men in Black, or the Matrix film where the Smith guy kept duplicating. And mostly ill-fitting dark suits at that. And ill-fitting shirts, and really awful ties. And poorly polished shoes with the squared off toes, that to my mind look hideous. I realise that others with more shoe-fu than me might consider shoes with squared off toes to be cool, but really, they’re not. The same goes for shoes with really long pointy toes. Just say no.
So, you all know the scene. All the guys are really dully dress, the ladies are all pea-cocking like crazy. And isn’t this a total reversal of nature? Anyone that’s been to a zoo knows that the baboon with the most colourful behind is the alpha-male. Every bird I can think of has a more spectacular male than female. It’s the natural way of things.
So how come this all changes when humans are making an effort to “dress nice”? Discuss.
Now, I’m not saying I got it more right than any of the other guys, but I made a conscious effort to wear something I consider nice. Should I bow down and get my first proper suit at age 45?