Marine Corps boot camp is known for its tough training and discipline. You might be surprised to know that a great deal of emphasis is also placed on how to have a dress coat tailored and how to tie a full windsor knot in your tie. I’m not talking about a half hour “here’s how you get dressed” class either, I’m talking about hours on end and several days of inspections to drill it into recruits the importance of wearing their uniform well. When the Marine Corps graduates Marines at the end of three months of bootcamp, its only after the recruit has shown, among other things, that they understand the importance of wearing their uniform in a manner that demonstrates professionalism, discipline, dignity, and commands respect. I learned a lot about the importance of dressing well when I was in the Marines and I learned a few things about why it’s so important for every man to own a suit and know how to wear it. It wasn’t just the Marines that taught me this, I also learned about the importance of men dressing well from history books about great leaders in the past, some of whom were promoted to high office simply for looking the part. For example, George Washington had a military uniform made for him that he wore when he attended the continental congress although he was no longer serving as a leader of any particular military unit. Who else would the Continental Congress give command of their new army to other than the one man who showed up dressed for the job? Although you might never be made commander in chief of the armed forces for wearing any particular set of clothes, a good suit does come in handy for a man who wants to be ready.
- It’s part of being prepared. You’ll be prepared for an event in which your appearance will likely speak for you. These days it isn’t all that uncommon to go to a wedding or even a funeral and see grown men slouching around in a pair of denim and a T-shirt. This is almost always entirely unacceptable. Important events like this are more important for the people hosting the event than they are for the guests. It’s important, as a man, that you demonstrate a respect and a reverence for the occasion, after all, a wedding for example, might be the biggest day in someone’s life and they might appreciate you showing some respect for the occasion. When it comes to saying something to a man or woman who just lost their spouse, it can be difficult to find the words. When you don’t have the words to say, your appearance will sometimes do all the talking for you. Showing up to pay your respects to the deceased might come across as disingenuous if you wear anything but clean dark or otherwise conservative suit to the wake or the funeral service.
- Other people will think more highly of you. Wearing a suit well will leave a deep impact on first impressions. This is especially true if your meeting a potential employer for a job in the corporate world. I took a criminal justice class in college and learned that a survey was conducted in American prisons in which violent criminals held a common belief that a police officer with a crisp and neat uniform was likely a better shot than a police officer with a sloppy appearance. From my Marine training, hearing this didn’t surprise me at all. When a man wears a suit well, it gives people confidence in him. All else being equal, the interviewee who wears a suit well is probably going to make a better impression at a job interview than in interviewee who shows up casually dressed. Giving someone your best will help them to think that you are the best. Remember that.
- It will boost your confidence. Not only will a good suit give other people confidence in you but it will help you have more confidence in yourself. Changing our outward appearance will have an impact on how we act. In the book Bureaucracy, author James Q. Willson tells the story of a failing inner city school where students where failing to graduate in record numbers. Finally, new leadership came to the district and one of the first things they did was put a fresh coat of paint on all the walls and require the students to wear uniforms. Immediately the district began to shape up and student performance was climbing higher than it had been in years. The reason for this is simple – create an atmosphere and appearance of respect and people will become more respectful. The same is true with how we dress. A man will both sit and stand differently when he is wearing a suit as opposed to how he would stand or sit if he were wearing a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. Marine recruits are taught how to wear a clean and neat uniform in part because while we are in uniform we will act clean and neat, dignified, if you will.
I enjoy listening to podcasts where men are encouraged to embrace their masculinity and exercise self-ownership and leadership. One podcast that I always really liked had a guest on who was going to talk about men’s dress and attire and I was really looking forward to it. It quickly became apparent to me that the so called “expert” on menswear was not much more than an adult boy who dressed for fashion to impress women. He completely lost me and I tuned out altogether when he said suits weren’t important and quipped, “Nah, like, I don’t even own a suit.” Oscar Wilde once said, “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months. Don’t wear a suit for fashion, wear a suit for style and class. Wear a suit that would have looked good in 1940 as well as 2018. Getting this timeless look is easier than you think, just follow the rule that Cary Grant used – keep it simple.
If you don’t have a suit today, get one. It doesn’t have to be a $1,500 tailored suit that takes weeks to make, it can be an $80 suit from Target so long as you learn how to wear it. If you don’t have a suit you need to get one, not only will you look more respectable and stylish, but you’ll also feel more confident.
Even if you don’t intend to wear it very often, it is always better to have one and not need it than to need one and not have it. Part of being a man involves not only knowing how to act appropriate but also how to dress appropriate.