Suit Up! (except for Billionaires)

For today’s Real Estate conference, I’m in a suit.

By sheer coincidence, exactly one year ago today, Mark Cuban announced he doesn’t wear suits — and can’t figure out why anyone else does

Of course, his position is a bit frivolous, as a billionaire he can wear anything — or nothing — and get away with it.

A more complete response to Cuban’s Why wear suit is here . . .

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  1. bt commented on Jan 9

    His position is not frivolous. I always wondered the same thing and never bought a suit except the first $89.99 (it was on sale at JC Penney) suit for the first interview. Never bought another pair of formal shoe and suits. Didn’t affect my career a bit, but then again I am not working for asses that insist on pushing everyone working for them to dress in a certain way.

    I think it is a clothing industry ploy to make us buy stuff we don’t need.

    I can see why suits or something similar may be very comfortable in colder climates, but the silliness extends to hot climates too, as Cuban pointed out. WTF? Conservative old guys insist on suits because that is what they grew up with and they can’t think outside of the box to figure out that they have just been wearing suits all along to please some other idiot.

  2. stephanie commented on Jan 9

    personally i can’t stand the general sloppiness of people’s work wear. flip flops, torn jeans, t-shirts with stains on them. i watch a film like Sabrina (the original) and realize the U.S. has lost most of it’s style and class.

    walking through italy i’m always astonished at how well people dress there. i wish we could revert to that level of sophistication. plus men wearing hats. i just love the look of businessmen in hats. it’s a pipe dream i know.

  3. Bob A commented on Jan 9

    wear one if you have to, but try to arrange your life so you don’t.

  4. worth commented on Jan 9

    As one who wore a suit for a few years, then was released from suitdom/serfdom for several years, and then rejoined the rat race with requisite wardrobe subjugation, I force myself to see the bright side. You look like everyone else, so you don’t worry about fashion as much (outside of buying current shoes and ties); the suit and the big starched shirt hide your out-of-shapeness better than khakis and a polo or shorts and a t-shirt; suits are actually comfortable if the material is of good quality and the fit is right (except for the neck area with buttoned up shirt and tie, which can be gotten around by buying shirts a half-inch too big in the neck so that you don’t even feel them choking you). Would I ditch it if given the choice? ABSOLUTELY! But I don’t, so I do what I have to, as did the royal subjects of yore mentioned in BR’s longer response.

  5. Larry commented on Jan 9

    In technology (outside of sales), wearing a suit signals that you’re compensating for something. Then again, Silicon Valley has completely change the work place for engineers, computer scientists, etc.

  6. bt commented on Jan 9

    So some folks were suits and ties as status confirmation. I guess they have no self worth so they resort to gimmicks to try and pump up their “status.”

    Shallow, shallow, shallow.

  7. Florida commented on Jan 9

    If I had paper like Cuban, I wouldn’t bother with a suit either.

  8. LAWMAN commented on Jan 9

    Apparently a number of men have been following Cuban’s lead…have you seen Men Warehouse’s earnings warning? Talk about a haircut…

  9. Pool Shark commented on Jan 9

    Mark Cuban’s comment perfectly encapsulates his character (a rich, petulant child) as well as highlighting what is (sadly) becoming an all too common trait of our ‘modern’ society.

    He fails to grasp the simple concept that dressing well is just as much about showing respect for those around you as it is about your own personal choices.

    Following this logic, the well-to-do should abandon eating utensils as being excessively ‘restrictive.’ Why not simply eat with your hands and wipe your mouth on the tablecloth?

    The manner in which we humans eat, dress, and deport ourselves is one of the few things that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom.

    And the way many humans have begun to behave, it’s becoming difficult to tell the two apart.

  10. ef commented on Jan 9

    Isn’t the saying, “dress for the position you want, not the one you have.” Dressing nicely is a sign of respect, for yourself and others. A suit is the business uniform. “Think and Grow Rich” mentality is that you put your efforts into what you do, not into what you wear. A suit is a constant though, no effort. I was always proud of my dad, looking so nice, when he left for work each morning. I certainly would want my kids teachers to dress nicely, in suits. Now, women have it rough. Can they get away with the same suit, and a clean, but the same, shirt each day. In the days of EDS, Ross Perot’s organization, their dress code required women to wear skirts, with matching shoes and only beige nylons. But then again, on Oprah, she was pushing $700 black slacks! Icks!

    I think it is saying more when people think jewelry, designer clothes, big houses, and expensive fuel inefficient vehicles make the person.

    Mark Cuban is interesting and colorful, and sometimes makes sense :-) It was interesting to read his blog about his IPO experience.

  11. JohnnyB commented on Jan 9

    As a business owner I wear a suit 5 days a week no exceptions ever. I frown on others in my industry not wearing one as well. I think wearing a suit promotes a more business and focused atmosphere. Sounds like I am an anal perfectionist SOB but I don’t think so, well maybe everything except for the SOB part..err wait a minute…

    Really, I feel so comfortable in a nice well made suit I almost rather wear one than jeans and a lousy shirt. It’s just my preference and I know I am in the minority but that’s what makes the world great – different viewpoints.

  12. odograph commented on Jan 9

    I think in Orange County that people can dress casually, but there is a different sort of signaling. The clothes should be new and clean. No frays. And of course changing with the fleeting fashions.

    (Last year, seeing dozens of guys walking out of the building on casual Friday, all in near-identical fashion jeans and near-identical untucked dress shirts was a bit surreal.)

  13. Ross commented on Jan 9

    Pool shark got it right.

  14. Camille commented on Jan 9


    “He fails to grasp the simple concept that dressing well is just as much about showing respect for those around you as it is about your own personal choices.”

    Professional suits are expensive and we all know how some people take this a step further and gage someone’s value based on if they spent $100 or $5000 on their outfit. What about showing respect for the individual from a humble beginning who can’t afford to drop that kind of cash on a suit?

  15. Bob A commented on Jan 9

    I suppose respect is a relative sort of thing and it all depends on what the people you work out with wear.

    To me, suits are a sign of subservience, artificialty, pompousnous and dishonesty.
    People who want to screw you wear suits.
    They are used to control you. Force you to conform. They restrictive, uncomfortable, and counterproductive.

    To you they may be the opposite.
    But get a grip. This idea that suits are somehow ‘respectful’ is entirely relative to your narrow point of view.

  16. Pool Shark commented on Jan 9


    Maybe I was raised with different values, but I have more respect for the man of ‘humble’ means wearing a $100.00 suit than for the man sporting $200.00 distressed jeans and $300.00 sneakers.

    Also, many of those currently wearing $5,000.00 suits may soon be shopping for their clothes at Target after they lose their job and can’t pay their credit card balances.

    To paraphrase Warren Buffet: “Only when the tide goes out are you able to see who’s been swimming naked.”

    btw, gotta love Stephanies’ observation; I hope it’s not a pipe dream.

  17. John Borchers commented on Jan 9

    Too funny here’s accounting trickery. Didn’t we learn anything from Enron?

    LOS ANGELES-Guess?, Inc. (NYSE: GES – News) announced today that its North American retail business continued to perform ahead … for the five week period ended January 5, 2008.

    5 Week period for retail sales ROFLMAO. They included almost the first week of Jan.

  18. Mikey commented on Jan 9

    “What about showing respect for the individual from a humble beginning who can’t afford to drop that kind of cash on a suit?”

    I don’t think anyone is asking the baristas to suit up. People don’t pay attention to people in T-shirts, though. (I know this for a fact as I used to dress in ratty clothes when shopping for suits so that the sales people would leave me alone until I was ready to buy.)

    I think it is easier to dress in suits than khakis — less wash and ironing. It also allows greater ability to express some style here on the west coast rather than looking like another Banana Republic clone. And chicks dig it. What’s not to love?

  19. yoshi commented on Jan 9

    @Pool Shark

    Its a uniform. Nothing more nothing less. I have worked at companies that require a suite and tie, “business casual”, and “no shirt, no shoes, no employment”. It is just a frick’n uniform. Personally I find my productivity goes down tremendously if I am forced to wear a uniform. Its something extra to worry about and have to spend time and money on. And those that fret over the guy wearing t-shirts and sandals during a meeting has their priorities screwed up. I have personally found that those that go all out in their attire are covering up for certain failings.

    re: target

    The irony of your statement is that Target HQ requires business attire – usually a suite although you can get away from not wearing a tie most of the time. In other words – you have to wear clothes you can’t buy at Target (except on Fridays).

  20. Pool Shark commented on Jan 9

    Bob A,

    Not to get too far afield on this topic, but here’s a question for you:

    You are walking down the street of a major city, two men in their 20’s approach you from the opposite direction, which of these two men do you instinctively avoid passing too near to:

    A) Man with well-groomed hair, wearing a suit with appropriately matching shoes, belt, and tie, or:

    B) Man with tattoos and unkempt hair covered in an inside-out, rear facing basebal cap, wearing a T-shirt with various epithets printed on it, and excessively baggy jeans, with his hands buried deeply in his pockets.

    What we choose to wear says as much about our view of others as it does about our view of ourselves.

  21. Mike B commented on Jan 9

    Men’s Wearhouse tanking again in AH due to huge drop in SSS YoY. Guess everyone else has decided not to wear suits these days.

  22. Ross commented on Jan 9

    No Fop for me. I’m a Dapper Dan man.

    I find it curious that this even merits much discussion but I guess it’s an election year. Gotta polarize the Sheeple. Politics used to be good theatre. But in the old days, bus drivers wore a suit and hat to Yankees games. It’s just a cycle, folks.

  23. Steve commented on Jan 9

    Plenty of research to be found on this folks. Wearing a suit is good for gaining credibility, respect and business. No need to wear one if you are not interested in any of the above. (Cuban isn’t)

  24. john galt commented on Jan 9

    @ John Borchers,

    Not sure where the accounting trickery is… Most companies in apparel retail run on a fiscal calendar in which the year begins in February, and each quarter has three months with 4, 5, and 4 weeks each.

    December, as the middle month in the 4th quarter is a 5 week month, which runs from December 2nd to January 5th (35 days).

    In the example above, Guess is comparing their results to the comparable 5 week period from the prior year. They didn’t lump 5 days from January into December this year just to make their numbers, as you seem to be implying.

  25. Bob A commented on Jan 9

    Pool Shark… In that scenario I take your point. But again it’s releative to where you work or live.

    If you’re going to a place where people normally where suits it’s worth noting you may make them uncomfortable if you’re not.
    And perhaps that’s respecting them by wearing a suit.

    At the same time, in my workplace, where jeans and sandals are the norm, you then would want to respect me by not making me uncortable.

    Millions and millions of this people in this country work in places where casual clothing is the norm… and when someone in a suit shows up, or if someone inexplicably prefers to work in that place because he or she is a dandy, or just likes suits, I don’t think they consider that person disrespectful… perhaps they even respect the person’s individuality.

  26. mcg commented on Jan 9

    A suit can be much more than just a uniform.
    It can be worn with style and elegance at almost any price range. Develop your own sense about these things and don’t just follow the herd. A well dressed man or woman is a thing of beauty.

  27. Imelda Blahnik commented on Jan 9

    Wait – didn’t Cuban wear suits on “Dancing with the Stars”? Gee, I wonder why – it was “expected,” and he felt the need to try to dress to impress, perhaps, in an environment where his billions were irrelevant regarding the outcome? Granted, his suits were costumey ones, for sure – but any time we consciously dress to impress, or to convey a message, there’s an element of costumery (and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that).

    Frankly I think men look teh hot in (well-fitting) suits. Long live the suit!

  28. donna commented on Jan 9

    You should own one good suit to be able to know how much gold is worth. A good man’s suit should cost about what an ounce of gold costs. Let’s you know if gold and suits are over/under valued. ;^)

    My hubby has one good suit, which I picked out for him to wear to testify before congress. Thought he ought to look good doing it. He still wears it when he needs to look good. It’s a beautiful olive green which is subtle but powerful.

    For me, suits are too high-powered. I tend to wear structured, collared jackets over casual black or grey pants and colored tops. But then I work in the software business so suits are frowned upon….

  29. May commented on Jan 9

    My husband caught my eye with a suit. It wasn’t an expensive number. But he showed his flair and personality through his pink cufflinks, beautiful cordovan shoes, brightly colored orange tie and clashing green pocket square. I thought he was dashing. If he was wearing khakis and a blue shirt I would have thought he was a boring old fart.

  30. Dan commented on Jan 9

    And so we see the definitive answer to why we wear suits:

    Chicks dig them.

  31. Innocent Bystander commented on Jan 9

    My formal wardrobe is pretty much down to one funeral suit and one wedding suit. I have plans for the funeral suit later too.

  32. badhaikuguy commented on Jan 9

    I haven’t worn a suit or tie as a matter of course in at least 20 years. However, I never had a problem spending the equivalent of a good suit, tie and shoes on an emsemble slacks, shirt, shoes and sometimes sweater or jacket depending on the weather. I always found it a bit curious that the devotees of “casual Fridays” would choose to dress down in (as a former respondent chronicles) ‘jeans and untucked dress shirt’. My Gawd! There is a plethora of $200+ casual shirts out there. Lose the Hathaways and the Levi’s, dude. ‘Casual’ doesn’t mean wear what you change oil in, fer chrissake. Ditto for the khakis (or Dockers) and t-shirt. The post WW2 look has been out for, well – since maybe the Korean War?! And how about the respondent that asks us to compare a 20-something in a suit to a unkempt mullet-besotted-backwards-ball-cap-wearing-trailer-park oaf?! That’s all there is? Men’s Wearhouse or trailer park? Get a clue! GQ!

  33. Vader commented on Jan 9

    Have more wars been started by men in suits or those in jeans?

    Has more fraud been committed by men in suits or men in jeans?

    Do more men in suits dump their wife of many years for a trophy wife than men in jeans?

    If suits are a symbol of status, then why do all the guilty folks wear suits just before sentencing.

    Suits are uniforms to be worn for specific occupations, or occasions.

    In my life, the guy in teeshirt, tattoo and jeans may be a fellow sufferer in this wonderful economy while the fellow in suit is sizing me up for a subprime mortgage.

  34. D. commented on Jan 10

    I used to pride myself in thinking I was a free spirit until, one morning, I tore 2 pairs of expensive nylons in a row. Only then did it register how controlled I truly was by society’s expectaions.

    We’re born naked and the closer we are to the tropics, the less clothes we need. How many of us, formal or casual dressers actually follow this simple logic? If we were only protecting ourselves from the elements, a bathrobe and slippers could be fine in an office environment.

    So the style of clothing we choose is essentially a statement, no matter what the choice is.

    I like suits because quality ones are great at hiding body defects or improving them. Let’s face it, business is very much about looking in control and perfect. Confort could alos be a priority but not many have the luxury of letting it all hang loose.

  35. pulaski commented on Jan 10

    Cheap suits look terrible, therefore a suit is a relatively reliable signifier of income. That is its purpose: a signal to competitors and potential mates.

    Me, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a suit. Class identity and all that. Uniforms are useful in war.

  36. pulaski commented on Jan 10

    Cheap suits look terrible, therefore a suit is a relatively reliable signifier of income. That is its purpose: a signal to competitors and potential mates.

    Me, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a suit. Class identity and all that. Uniforms are useful in war.

  37. BuffaloBob commented on Jan 10

    Having to wear a piece of cloth knotted around one’s windpipe is subconscious acceptance of servitude to the prevailing order.

  38. Ellis commented on Jan 10

    Each day I trade in a colorful pair of Villebrequin trunks, t-shirt and sandals. At the end of the day, I hop into my Veyeron and catch a few waves at the beach. I don’t need to wear a suit to impress women. Can definitely understand the need to wear a suit in certain work environments – you have my sympathy.

  39. Don commented on Jan 10

    Buffalo Bod, it ain’t subconscious, if you choke on it when you put it on.

    I hate suits, but especially, ties. I only wear them when forced to visit those secular temples known as courtrooms. I’m a lawyer, but mostly do transactional work, so thankfully almost never have to go to court.

    I remember a banker buddy of mine one time denigrating a guy for his “$100 suit”. How lame, shallow and artificial. I could spend $10,000 on a suit if I wished, but prefer instead to spend money on things more useful and lasting, like gold or real estate (even if it crashes, it still is “real”).

    I’ll always only wear suits and ties when and if I have to. If some woman is thereby impressed with the way I look in a suit, then she’s as shallow, lame and artificial as my banker buddy. I’ll leave her to him.

  40. david commented on Jan 10

    Suits are fine except for ties. I’m all for the dress shirt, pants and jacket/sportcoat look.

    Especially now that I’m back living in a climate (San Francisco) where you have the perfect excuse to wear a suit jacket around town (because it’s always 60-68 degrees). It looks better than some windbreaker or leather jacket, and it’s more comfortable than a full wool overcoat.

    It’s even fine for business casual environments. Just take off the jacket in the office, and voila’ –you’re just another drone in a collared shirt and pants.

    Just please don’t make me wear a tie. I feel like I’m going to have a stroke whenever I put one on.

  41. Imelda Blahnik commented on Jan 10

    If some woman is thereby impressed with the way I look in a suit, then she’s as shallow, lame and artificial as my banker buddy. I’ll leave her to him.

    So, when it comes to women, for you a curve-hugging dress looks as good as an oversized t-shirt and sweatpants?

    It’s not the perceived cost of the suit that’s appealing, it’s the “looking sharp” that works.

  42. badhaikuguy commented on Jan 10

    Dress up, dress down, bah!
    Men’s Wearhouse or trailer park?
    Get a clue – GQ!

  43. Bagbalm commented on Jan 11

    If you have an accident driving a nice car and wearing a suit the other uniform wearers (da cops) will treat you with respect. If you are wearing a t-shirt with a huge marijuana leaf screen printed on front and ragged jeans they are as likely as not to cuff you and smash your face on the hood a few times before they even bother to speak with you.

  44. Anitra commented on Jan 11

    What’s the big deal with a suit? I would think more men would like them (sans tie) as it allows one to have a wardrobe that requires little or no thought.

    As a woman in IT, I can’t wear a suit, because I’d be overdressed. So every morning, I stare at the closet. Does the pink shirt go with the brown pants? Should I be wearing a sweater or a button-down shirt today? Can I wear a tailored jacket with a t-shirt underneath? (I’ve seen my husband do the same thing, though he doesn’t debate about it as long as I do.)

    I’d love to have a “uniform” in the form of a suit. It would make my morning preparation 10 minutes shorter.

  45. Brian Brady commented on Jan 12

    On a side note, your talk was excellent at the Inman conference. I had the pleasure of meeting you in the Speakers’ Room just prior to it and am glad I found your weblog.

  46. Anon Y. Mouse commented on Jan 14

    I went to a private high school and wore a
    shirt and tie for four years.

    A suit is not uncomfortable if it fits right
    and is worn correctly.

    And I don’t understand how a suit can enforce
    a “hierarchy” if everybody is wearing one? If
    everyone dresses the same, even the boss, how
    is that indictative of servitude?

    Anyway, one thing a suit says is, “Don’t
    pay attention to my appearence. Pay attention
    to my abilities, my background, my accomplishments.”

    For example, who would you want to invest
    a lot of money with? Someone wearing a suit,
    or someone wearing a ripped t-shirt and torn
    jean shorts? And how would you feel if
    you met the doctor who is going to perform
    surgery and they were dressed in t-shirt
    and jeans vs. a shirt & tie? Like I said,
    a suit is a way of *not* drawing attention
    to yourself, and in many cases that’s a
    desirable thing. You can always “express
    yourself” on your own time.

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