Friday, 17 April 2015
Yesterday evening there were three of us loitering at the entrance to Kensington Palace Gardens, the road where all the embassies are, two policemen and me in my suit, a thing I never wear. I think they were thinking, he’s smoking, not good, but he doesn’t look like a terrorist, he’s wearing a suit. I was thinking, it’s cute how policemen always go around in pairs these days: always someone to share your existential loneliness with, on this journey through life.
If you are a racist sexist lying scumbag and you have to attend court for sentencing, your lawyer will almost certainly advise you to wear a suit.
If you are a politician on some TV debate, or just going to hang around in public with ‘the people’, your minders will almost certainly insist that you wear a suit.
When my sons were at school, a new rule was enforced: all males in the sixth form had to wear suits. To prepare them for ‘the world of work’. (I was in full-time employment for over 30 years, in schools and offices; I can’t recall ever wearing a suit, not once.) The same rule applied to male teachers. Going to a parent-teacher meeting was like attending a convention of estate agents.
There are suits and there are suits, of course. For a close look at possibly the finest suit in the history of the world, see Todd McEwen’s essay ‘Cary Grant’s Suit’ (it’s in his How Not to Be American, 2013; or online from Granta, if you’re a subscriber): ‘North by Northwest isn’t a film about what happens to Cary Grant, it’s about what happens to his suit. The suit has the adventures, a gorgeous New York suit threading its way through America …’
I could do suits, I think, but it would take a lot of practice, years and years of wearing a suit every day, until the fit felt natural. As it is, on the very rare occasions when I do put on a suit, I feel as if I’m expected to make a 'pledge', or sell someone a grotty flat for an absurd amount of money, or I’m about to go down for a minimum number of years.