The casual beach towns of Southern California where I grew up were no place for jacket and tie. My later university and adult life were set against Northern California’s laissez-faire attitude and the Silicon Valley premium on individual codes of dress. The suit was an object of conformity, of class and an oppressiveness I associated with the choking neck tie, cinched belt and the unforgiving hardness of leather-soled shoes.. I have never had any cause to love, much less understand what the suit meant to the generations that preceded my own.
I have set out a basic rule in this project. I speak about it to anyone who will listen. Ironically this finds me listening a lot more than I talk because everyone seems to have a story about “the suit”. It evokes personal memories and a nostalgia for a time when the suit meant something very different. It used to be ubiquitous. It spanned classes. Look at any photo from the Western world that is over 40 years old. Everyone is in a suit, regardless of class and often, regardless of the physical activity they were engaged in.
The suit was a symbol of self-respect and dignity. It was worn by plumbers and shop keepers, it was worn by archaeologists in the field and by middle-class fans at soccer matches.
Image from scfcheritage