In July of 2010, the user WhoMD posted a request with the following title to a student doctor forum: “Short sleeved suit?”
“I bought the suit below,” WhoMD explained, providing a link to a picture of the garment in question, “because of an interview in August which will be very hot. I thought it looked professional but just wanted other opinions. I can return it.”
Those who clicked through to the link’s image expressed their relief: The suit, a Tahari number, included a short-sleeved jacket, belted to cinch the waist, and a skirt. It was meant to be worn by a woman.
“Cute,” said one. “Glad you’re a girl and not a guy though.”
“I hope you’re a chick,” said another.
“Yeah,” agreed another, “I was going into this thread assuming at [sic] the OP was a guy. Would’ve said he’d look like a male stripper.”
“love it! i too was imagining a short sleeved suit on a guy. not ok.”
To all of which WhoMD responded: “thanks. I am a chick by the way. I don't think I’d have the guts to wear that if I was a male haha.”
Haha indeed. Suits may be an equal-opportunity affair, gender-wise, as species of professional attire; they’re most readily associated, however, with dudes. Which is why it was a little bit surprising, and also a little bit jarring, and also a little bit hilarious, when the Swedish brand Acne Studios released its Spring-Summer 2016 menswear line to reveal suits whose jackets sport ... short sleeves. Cuffed short sleeves, no less!
This is, on the one hand, yet another instance of fashion being fashion—designers working with the limited material they have, literally, to advance not just streetwear trends, but also ideas and provocations. Suits, the prototypical pieces of menswear, are particularly apt to that end because they’re unparalleled as symbols of conformity: Suits have been passed down, adjusted but not fundamentally unaltered, from the courts of King Charles II and King Louis XIV in the 1600s—drab, largely uniform getups whose point was to prevent expressions of individuality. The suit today, GQ points out, is “the one article of men’s clothing that sees immense change season to season through different fabrics, fits, and price, and yet hardly changes at all.”