Conflict & Compromise

What is it about slacks, or vests, or suits and ties that make them created for men? I don’t know. I’ve never known. Now I’m not completely oblivious. I’ve had a lifetime, like all women, of watching men pull off a look they probably don’t think twice about. But…the queer (and by this I mean strange) act of calling it a men’s’ suit, and conversely a woman’s pant suit, is comparable to celebrating an “african-american” writer as opposed to just a writer or a “female” athlete as opposed to just an athlete. There’s nothing inherent about looping fabric around your neck with a triangular core at the top and remaining pieces dangling below that screams male.

Like so many of our learned patterns in life, a woman wearing a tie is the effect of conflict and compromise.

My father taught me how to tie a neck-tie I think. Maybe because he thought I would tie a husband’s or a boyfriend’s, but I’ve since made selfish use of the skill. I don’t even wear it that often or even consider myself the type who would; a tomboy, butch, queer, dapper. Those words are not part of my personal constitution. If we were even using words, I would more often liken myself to a teenage boy (in dress alone thankfully…and perhaps in regard to the necessity of sleep and things on computers)…but only if I have to.

There is this line that I observe getting drawn between the spaces (literal and figurative) of what people think you can and cannot be. What’s interesting, surprisingly, is not that there is a line, but how often people feel compelled to re-draw it. Conflict and compromise. These are things that queers know. Deeply. Sometimes its dapper. Sometimes its deadly. But never. ever. inherent.

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  • For me, starting to explore this question would start with the history of the suit and why it evolved to become what it is.
    Read Sex and Suits: The Evolution of Modern Dress (by Anne Hollander, one of my all-time scholarly heros), it’s brilliant.

    I can’t boil down her thesis into a coherent sentence, unfortunately. It’s something like…the modern suit is a visual representation of egalitarianism.

  • Consider it added to the reading list!

    I want to comment more but that would give away too many future blog subjects.

    I’ll just say its really interesting to dissect how the suit is used by women throughout history and how it has evolved.

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