The modern suit comes from the European military traditions. They are designed to let one see someone’s rank, social or otherwise, at a glance. They are also designed to be somber and to lend an air of sophistication and intelligence to the wearer. In the right situation, a suit can also be used to show an aura of respectibility and trustworthiness.
Suits can also function, these days, as a uniform – an entire salesforce of people wearing similar suits is comforting to customers or clients and also re-assuring to the salespeople themselves. A suit can let one know that he or she fits in and is an accepted member of the group.
(Never mind the fact that in these sorts of situations, all manner of lapel pins and tie-clips have been developed to provide the wearer with a feeling of being of the group but also, slightly above the group, thus breaking the uniform of its purpose.)
However, the converse is also true. In a situation where only one person is wearing a suit, that person has the power. That person is the authority. Think about classroom situations and business addresses and you will see what I mean. How is the speaker dressed as opposed to the audience? Now, also remember, that suits were originally for the military and the police and think about how we, as the audience, are trained to assign authority to people wearing suits.
(Of course, a good suit is not enough to confer power by itself. The wearer must know how to speak and act properly, not to mention, know how to wear a suit properly, but, still, it can go a long way towards making a good first impression on the audience.)
When teaching junior or senior high school, I can see where suits may be needed to confer authority. However, outside of those places, I do not think suits have any place in the classroom. For adults, the teacher should be a peer, not an authority figure. After all some of my students are older than I, to say nothing of being more experienced in some subjects. Also, I do not want my students to feel that I have any mysterious powers that they do not have; that they can not attain what I have, namely a mastery of the English language, with occasional foreys into history and science.
And for children, well, it just is not practical.
All this flashed through my mind today when one of my students berated me for not wearing a suit to his class. A Friday afternoon, forty-five minute class in the community center, where the median age of the students is 60, one student wanted to know why I do not wear a suit to class.
“Because it’s too hot” was my only answer.
Blogged with Flock