It fell to famously casual Jose Mujica, the Uruguayan president, to tackle a subtler evil plaguing humankind: the business suit.
“We have to dress like English gentlemen!” exclaimed Mujica, clad in a rumpled white shirt. “That’s the suit that industrialization imposed on the world!”
“Even the Japanese had to abandon their kimonos to have prestige in the world,” he continued, gesturing forcefully and rapping a pen on the table to punctuate his words. “We all had to dress up like monkeys with ties.”
Preach it, my brutha. This reminded me of one English gentleman who went in the opposite direction. Alan Watts used to dress “properly” throughout much of his career as a writer and speaker, but eventually came to favor, along with many others in the counterculture, looser styles of clothing like the Japanese kimono. Monica Furlong related one anecdote:
On another evening he met them for dinner at Simpson’s in the Strand. He was wearing a turtle-necked shirt and sandals, and the doorman politely declined to let him in.
“You don’t like my wear?” asked Watts in amusement. He went back to the Charing Cross Hotel to change, and reappeared, still wearing his sandals, but in a necktie and jacket.
“Are you happy now I look like all the other undertakers?” he asked.
It’s a good thing I lack professional ambition, because I loathe formal wear. Life’s too short to spend so much of it in voluntary discomfort.