Suits

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As usual, today I woke up and dressed for work. And as usual, it was a suit, shirt and tie. But this was different. My attire was all new.I must confess I like new clothes. Normally once I have bought new clothes I want to wear them immediately.  This was the case this morning.

In my ‘humble opinion’ it is best if all the clothes and accessories are new. There is something just not right abouta new suit and old shoes. In this case the clothes were new. The shoes are six months old. So not too bad.

After dressing my wife told me I was smart. And I felt good since I think she has good taste. That is one of the perks of being married. Most days she complements me on my dressing. Before marriage, she would compliment me on the days we met which was a few times a week.

Sometimes I can spend a lot of time deciding which tie matches with which shirt. I may decide that a blue tie matches with a white shirt. Then after deciding, I try on a black suit and then decide that while the blue tie and white shirt match, the black suit is not the best match for them. So I try on a gray suit, then conclude that the gray suit matches with the blue tie but is not the best match for the white shirt. So I am back to zero. This can go on for upto thirty minutes especially if you add the time it takes to tie a tie and then discover that the tied tie is a bit longer than it should be (it should reach around the belt buckle), meaning I end up tying it again.

At such moments, I wonder where the culture of lawyers dressing up in suits came from. And why I have to bother with this ritual 4 times a week. I first had to wear suits regularly in law school around 2006. Back then, I did not know much about suits. So I asked my elder brother for advice and he gave me a small book about office wear. It had lots of information about how a suit jacket should fit on your shoulders, the length of the suit jacket, which colours of match best and the like. I was entering a bold and brave new season of my life after a wearing tshirts and jeans for the whole of university.

I remember asking two seasoned-suit-wearing friends of mine to go suit hunting with me. They assisted me select 3 suits. When I got back home I drove my mum and sister nuts by trying on the suits several times and asking them whether the suit jackets met my shoulders at the perfect angle.

At law school I learnt that one of the main reasons lawyers dress up is to make a good impression, the so called “halo effect” theory. According to the theory, when someone meets a smartly dressed lawyer, they are likely to develop some positive biases about the lawyer. They are likely to believe that the smartly dressed lawyer must also be important, intelligent, confident, articulate, and full of deep knowledge about the law.

It is now 11 years later and I still wear suits. In fact, I have become so attached to the idea of wearing suits that I feel there is something missing on days that I dress down. At my office, we normally dress up in suits from Monday to Thursday.It can be ridiculous suiting up on really hot days. We dress down on Fridays. Curiously, I rarely meet face to face with my clients. Often, they are actually based abroad. Most communications are by email or phone. So I suit up every day to come and deal with mostly clients who will never see me. Once in a while, a local client might pop into the office for a meeting.

When I was an associate, it was more important to dress up, because my job often involved going to government offices to follow up on company registration applications, do land searches and the like. And generally I got the sense that government officials treated you more seriously if you were smartly dressed. Nowadays, most of my work is done from my desk.

So why do I still dress up? Habit? To give an example to the associates and interns? To fit in with the other dressed up colleagues? To feel good about myself? All the above I guess. I probably should start dressing down more but I do not know how to even begin.

By Ray Musyoka

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