Death of Suits & Rock-n-Roll

SuitAnyone else out there listen to NPR? In the last couple of weeks they have announced both the death of a men’s suit and rock and roll. I suppose that I really should not be shocked by the latter has certainly felt the death of the former occurred sometime ago. I was a little shocked to hear both of them being announced on NPR in such a short time span and especially the suit story coming from them really means the suit is indeed dead.

To be honest, I thought the death of the suit occurred back around 1991 or 1992, when IBM in Lexington split off to form a Lexmark International. Prior to that point I had always dressed for success if you will, including often wearing ties and coats to the office despite the fact that I was still in college and not a regular employee. I worked in a particular shop that largely did not wear coats and ties, however all the clients of mostly engineers were always dressed in suits.

When the changeover to Lexmark took place culture inside the development areas changed overnight. People who previously only occasionally dressed casual on the on Friday went to regularly wearing Bermuda shorts and occasionally showing up in shorts. The rapid fire change was almost a enough to cause one’s head to spin.

It was about the same time that I personally began to realize my attire did not enhance or in any way positively effect my programming and coding ability. A few years after that, I found myself in a lower management position and was constantly amazed by the number of interviewees who showed up dressed to the nines while clearly not used to such attire. It was then I truly became convinced that one should judge a candidate based on the abilities and what was presented on the resume instead of how well dressed the candidate was. It was also during this time that I myself again dressing very casually and soon realized that my own productivity greatly improved when my clothing was more relaxed and comfortable.

The really interesting part about the NPR article was the reason they gave for its death. While it was true and referenced that the American workplace had become much more casual in its nature, the nail in the coffin for the suit was the image it is often associated with today. That image being either the sleazy used car salesman or the businessman/banker who would rob us blind without regret.

Do not get me wrong on this, I still think if you are in customer service or in general interacting with the public on a regular basis one should make a genuine effort which to retire and appearance. Furthermore, a good disposition and a caring attitude showing potential good customer service is required for success. However, most customer service type of employees are not at the level where we would expect them to be in suits. A nice pair of dress slacks and a good-looking shirt is more than sufficient. I do not think customer service should be done by someone wearing a plain or logo tee-shirt, so clearly there is a happy medium. On the other hand, if your job involves sitting in a room full of computers with little to no human interaction,who cares?

In regards to rock and roll been dead I think that announcement should have likewise been made some time ago. Rock and roll is best for presented by those groups such as can be found in the sixties and seventies. By the mid 1980s rock and roll had become the softer more pop sound that has gone through several iterations itself to be what we have today. I think there are many in the world today who would try to argue that rock is still alive and kicking, but in general we have the legacy mega-stars of that by gone era who are still engaged despite the music having moved on. It could even be argued we have returned to a lot of what was going on prior to the real explosion with rock and roll – as we know have very programmed music and sounds and the artist themselves are almost hand-picked prior to ever showing any real talent to become the next superstar.

This is very similar to the way of music genres such as jazz and big band of other by gone eras. The king is dead, long live pop? Of course one could say the same kinds of things regarding country music (and I often have done so) – it has transformed from what was once country to a much more soft pop kind of sound. The sound has an element of country values and such programmed into most successful songs, but to call in country given what was being played as country twenty and thirty years ago is a stretch.

** – Sorry, I got so caught up in the humor of calling that picture a suit, I forgot to note where I found it. If it is your image, please let me know so I can credit your work.  My apologies otherwise.