Where there are men, there are suits

Donald Luzzatto

I keep a blue blazer in my closet because I never know when I’ll need the uniform. Some guys may know what they’re doing when they get dressed in the morning, but I need help.

The modern-male business uniform trades guesswork for a few variables: Jacket, pants, shirt, tie, plus shoes and socks. Compared with what women put up with, it’s a pretty foolproof system.

If elevating simplicity above fashion works fine in the winter, then summer is another matter. Convention — and native intelligence — permits women to complicate their own fashion calculations by calibrating skin exposure to match the temperature. Guys don’t do that. Or can’t.

Whatever the temperature, we’re wearing pants. We’re wearing long-sleeved shirts. There’s usually a tie involved, cinched to the collar. If I’m in public, I’m wearing a jacket, probably wool, because otherwise everything else looks silly.

The price of the male uniform is air conditioning. Maybe your office isn’t as cold as the TV studio I found myself in Thursday afternoon, but if you’ve got guys in suits, the thermostat is probably set low enough to dry age beef. It wasn’t always thus.

Back in my reporter days, I found myself covering a double murder in the middle of a Farmville summer. Two girls shot their sleeping parents with a .22 rifle at the back of their trailer. It was hot as blazes as I drove around, the tar softening. The siding of the trailer around the bullet holes was hot to the touch. I had to attend a hearing in the courthouse about whether reporters were going to be allowed in for the trial.

I’d been warned that this judge was going to expect me to be dressed in something spiffier than my reporter duds, so I showed up practically soggy in his courtroom, dressed in the one sport jacket I owned. The lawyer for the newspaper was in a seersucker suit and bow tie. He looked at the still perspiring reporter he was supposed to represent and chuckled.

My family’s Southern roots go back at least to the early 1800s, and probably earlier. Still, I fear I’ll never be Southern enough to pull off a seersucker suit, no matter how hot it gets.

The only time during the week you’ll see me without the uniform is on the days I need to hunker down. My penalty for dressing comfortably: I’m cold, too.

Otherwise, I’m dressed like it’s the dead of winter in July. And, if I’m inside, the women around me are cold. I’m sorry about that. I don’t control the thermostat. Neither, though, do I lament its position much. It lets me get rid of my coat in the only civilized way there is: By offering it to a shivering woman.

Donald Luzzatto is The Virginian-Pilot’s editorial page editor. Contact him at [email protected].