Men in Suits

Everyone knows that all men past the age of 20 look better in a suit.
June 14, 2024
Tom Kelley Archive/Getty Images

I love a wedding. I tear-up at the tender vows; I swoon at the sight of a gorgeous chuppah; my heart breaks at the crushing of the glass. Then there’s the party! It’s the only time women of a certain age get to dress up in sparkly  dresses and twirl around the dancefloor all night, even if it is with each other. The bride is the pièce de resistance. A grown woman who pours all her hopes and dreams into a fantasy dress with a medieval veil for one evening makes me so emotional.

The men also look great. I love seeing them shaved, bathed and pressed into suits, with shirts crisply buttoned and silk ties around their necks. They look so neat and uniform, like tycoons or politicians. Everyone knows that all men past the age of 20 look better in a suit. Except perhaps Brad Pitt, who I prefer bare-chested in gym shorts.

Which begs the question, why did suits disappear except as wedding attire? Blame it on COVID, casual Fridays, or gender fluidity. I blame Larry David. Wasn’t his curmudgeonly character the inspiration for retired men of a certain age (old) to toss out their grown-up clothes and start dressing like middle-schoolers? When my husband Fred switched to droopy sweat pants, T-shirts with slogans, and gray hoodies, I saw the writing on the wall. Either he no longer cared about how he looked—or he was aging backwards like Benjamin Button. (Pardon my Brad Pitt obsession.)

I blame Larry David.

An informal poll tells me that Fred is not unique. Friends report that retired attorneys, accountants and marketing executives are wearing hideous items like synthetic travel pants with zippy pockets, shredded jeans, rock concert T-shirts from the ‘70s, and baggy hiking shorts. Stains, of course, are baked in. Then there’s Fred’s beloved baseball cap collection. For complete comfort, he prefers to wear his vintage caps backwards at the table—a look I nixed when my teenage sons were still in the house. He figures if John Fetterman could get elected to the Senate, it must be a legitimate look for a grown-up.

To be honest, Fred was never a slick guy. In his working life, his fashion icon was Columbo, Peter Falk’s forever rumpled television detective. In fact, he wore a wrinkled trench coat to our first date. At the beginning of his career as an investigative journalist he bought a few Brooks Brothers suits, button-down powder blue Oxford shirts (stiff and machine-washable) and penny loafers—a want-to-be preppy look. Tweed jackets with patches eventually replaced suits. In the ‘90s he jumped on the casual Friday bandwagon with abandon. In truth, he always looked like a guy who had more important things to do than think about what to wear. I’m not sure what those things were, but his unabashed earnestness was cute.

I should mention that unlike many of my friends, early on I decided not to give my husband a makeover. I made subtle suggestions with gifts of softer shirts, fine imported ties and a slim puffy jacket from Patagonia. But I decided that I was busy enough working full-time and raising two sons without adding him to my to-do list. I bit my tongue when we went out to stylish events. Saville Row tailor Simon Cundey summed up my feelings in the The Guardian: “When your wife dresses up and you come out in a hoodie and sweats, are they happy with you?”

Ten years into his active retirement of hitting balls and hiking, I am shocked to notice that my husband’s look is changing. Suddenly he’s thinking about clothes and even shopping! After years of ignoring my suggestions, he finally looked in the mirror and saw how bizarrely mismatched we looked. On his own he found Bonobos, a shirt company that makes several lengths, Lululemon for athleisure, and finally, a boutique in the Valley that specializes in tailoring for short men. Now, even his jeans fit properly! I express my gratitude with lavish praise.

When it comes to sloppy husbands, never give up. The good news reported by Guy Trebay in  The New York Times recently is, “Four centuries into the suit’s evolution, the foolproof combination of jacket and trousers in matching fabrics seems as vital as ever.”

Now, if my friend’s adult children would just get married, we could all dress up again!

Los Angeles food writer Helene Siegel is the author of 40 cookbooks, including the “Totally Cookbook” series and “Pure Chocolate.” She runs the Pastry Session blog.

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