There is a meme in conservative circles, in that sarcastic-but-not-really manner, that Western civilisation is in decline, prompted by everything from clubs admitting women to video assistant referees in major sporting events. It has done the rounds again after news that the suit is to be removed from the list of items used to measure inflation. This time the tweed-dusted internet cosplayers have a point.
The suit represents the pinnacle of Western accomplishment. As if by magic, a well-proportioned ensemble can turn a man — any man — from something to be press-ganged into service aboard one of Her Majesty’s frigates or sent down a mine, into something a woman might be persuaded to cohabit and reproduce with.
The evidence for this? Well of course, women say so. For years there have been articles, memes and Reddit threads about how attractive women find men in suits. Now, I know many a man will hear alarm bells: how often have we taken women at their word only to pay dearly for believing everything was “fine” later? Should us men really keep wearing suits just because women say so? But the sheer volume of women who do say so is overwhelming, and it seems unlikely (though not impossible) that this is a practical joke that half the population is playing on the other. I can’t help but wonder whether the decline of suits, the one garment worn by men which women say they like is, bizarrely, yet another sign that we really do live in a patriarchal nightmare.
From the advent of the lounge suit in the mid nineteenth century tailoring has proved both the great enhancer and the great leveller. Suits iron out flaws and showcase assets like no other class of attire. No other item of clothing can compete. Sportswear style requires one to sprint for Jamaica to look the part. The bearded hipster gives whiffs of danger and romance, but also scurvy and the clap. And though tight, tight jeans do a good job of advertising a man’s extremities, they slowly render said extremities physically redundant, which is a high-risk, low-reward mating strategy.
And yet, these are the fashions that have supplanted the beloved suit. Suits have gained a reputation for being stuffy, yet when people try to get creative with them, as every Hollywood red carpet event shows, it easily goes wrong. What society could take something so perfect and trash it so thoroughly, other than one hell-bent on its own destruction?
When done correctly — with, in truth, little effort — suits put us men at our best. Tailoring is macho, artisanal, helps the environment, and above all, chaps, increases your chances, amid plummeting fertility rates, of finding a mate. That we risk letting them fade away in favour of fast fashion and “activewear” is indeed a sign that we have our priorities wrong. When a woman tells you what you look good in, believe her. It’s you she’ll have to be seen with, after all.