The skinny conspiracy

If I love you–or just think you’re smarter than me (but the two tend to go together)–every once in a while you’ll get an e-mail from me that reads like this, “Help! I’m staring at a blank page of a document that’s supposed to be a Last Word that was due last week, and nothing is materializing. Throw me some random words.” And if you love me back, you’ll stop working on your clients’ really important files, and send me something like this: “All of men’s suits these days are very slim cut.  Those that can afford the good ones can’t fit into them because they are old, fat and unhealthy from giving up their lives to their practices.  Those that can fit into them can’t afford them. … maybe pair with the ide that the younger generation of lawyers (who are watching you close your doors to talk about points and the health of your BMWs) are just not that into you. In fact, they don’t really think you’re cool.)”

And I take it and turn it into the June 2011 Last Word, The Skinny Conspiracy.

Unedited excerpt (full text follows):

Sigh. Well, I’m glad we at least agree that clothes speak—that the blue suit, the skinny suit, and that cape I’m designing for you all have a message. From bloomers to zoot suits, clothes have made history—caused riots—made the people within them look good, look bad. The skinny suit is no different. No, I did not say it makes you look good—I haven’t completed the exhaustive statistical analysis on this, but preliminary field tests suggest it does so for two in 10 articling students, one in 10 associates, and 0.67 in 100 partners—I’m saying it’s making history. If you don’t act now and destroy all visual evidence of yourself and your colleagues in these things, your children and grandchildren will look back to the photos of you in your skinny suit as the turning point, the moment where the boomers stopped ruling the world. Oh, yeah. You may think it’s a question of an unforgivably cut pair of pants, but really, it’s about the passing of the demographic torch. If boomers still ruled the world, you wouldn’t be wearing the skinny suit.  

And it made a difference, you know. It really did. At least in one male lawyer’s wardrobe. He told me his wife was on the verge of buying him a skinny suit when the column came out. I saved him. (Full text below picture)

The photo was taken by John Ferrell and first ...

Photo by John Ferrell (June, 1942). Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, number, e.g., LC-USF35-1326 

Last Word: Mea Culpa

by Marzena Czarnecka

I guess it’s my fault, and I’m really, really sorry. I promised you a costume―remember? A cool super-lawyer outfit to rival the ermine robes of Supreme Court justices, and what have I done? Nuthin’, just a cocktail napkin with the sketch of a bed sheet (blue) with the letters CL (gold) on the back. I’m rather proud of that CL, by the way―CL for corporate lawyer, and at the some time, for commercial litigator, should a firm that values both its barristers and solicitors equally wish to promote uniformity among its people… Still, initials do not a uniform make, and, clearly, tired of waiting for me, you took things into your own hands, with disastrous results. I’m so very, very sorry.

But it’s early days yet and I think we can fix it. If all of you just say no―just put those things back into the back of the closet, or better yet, run them to your closest clothing donation bin or Value Village and promise to never, ever wear them to a board room, office, restaurant or any other public place again―I think we might be able to erase this whole regrettable episode from legal history. Odds are any pics snapped of you while in it didn’t show the full atrocity of the costume―you have to be walking, and viewed from the rear for this to be the case―but to be on the safe side, I suggest you destroy the photographs, in hard copy and digital format alike―and make sure you didn’t leave any litter in the cloud―and urge your friends to do the same.

Yes, I’m berating you for succumbing to the lure of the skinny suit. Skinny jeans are bad enough, but for the most part they’re a sin committed by the very young, who, even if not very thin and very attractive, may appear so to all but the most jaded eyes by virtue of their lack of wrinkles and liver spots. But that Corporate Canada would ever succumb to the skinny suit―and within Corporate Canada, the corporate lawyer―well, I never thought I’d live to see the day. Honestly, I thought between your vanity and your conservatism, you’d be safe.

Now, I don’t blame you, not completely. I mean, yes, you did buy the damn things, but I take my fair share of the blame―I berated you for years for the lack of imagination exhibited by your wardrobe, and then let you down by not delivering a decent alternative. No, the way I hear it told, the skinny suit is a conspiracy, by the young (and possibly the thin) to make the old (and, well, the sleek) look ridiculous. I don’t generally buy into conspiracy theories, but this one, this one might have the kernel of truth to it. Why else would you, one of the most brilliant, penetrating and unforgiving minds I know, saunter down the street―worse, into a boardroom filled with clients!–in something that makes your knees and other bumps look like…

You’re bristling, and you’re calling me shallow, not to mention fashion unconscious, unaware that a that there is a message a lawyer sends to clients and colleagues via attire―the blue suit of old, the skinny suit of new. The message of the blue suit we’re all familiar with―reliable, predictable, risk-averse. The message of the new suit, you say, is that you on top of things, your pulse on the best and the newest, your wallet available to pay for it. “Success!” it screams―so you say.

Sigh. Well, I’m glad we at least agree that clothes speak―that the blue suit, the skinny suit, and that cape I’m designing for you all have a message. From bloomers to zoot suits, clothes have made history―caused riots―made the people within them look good, look bad. The skinny suit is no different. No, I did not say it makes you look good―I haven’t completed the exhaustive statistical analysis on this, but preliminary field tests suggest it does so for two in 10 articling students, one in 10 associates, and 0.67 in 100 partners―I’m saying it’s making history. If you don’t act now and destroy all visual evidence of yourself and your colleagues in these things, your children and grandchildren will look back to the photos of you in your skinny suit as the turning point, the moment where the boomers stopped ruling the world. Oh, yeah. You may think it’s a question of an unforgivably cut pair of pants, but really, it’s about the passing of the demographic torch. If boomers still ruled the world, you wouldn’t be wearing the skinny suit.

So, if you’re a boomer wearing the skinny, you’re wearing as sign of your own oppression and honestly, I expected more of you, Flower Children. If you’re part of the youth conspiracy that engineered this―well, I forgive you. Some sacrifice that involved modelling was necessary to get the “forever young” to adopt your style. And if you’re of the generations in-between―burn the damn things. I’ll get that cape done pronto.

Marzena Czarnecka is an utterly unfashionable Calgary writer.

Thomson Reuters article record

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