An advertisement for a trip to Yellowstone National Park

I showed up at the polls by 6:46 a.m. on Nov. 2, and found the polling station (in a local church gym/sanctuary) already filling up with folks who were clearly voting before going in to work. I counted 60 or so voters either in line or voting at any one time — most of them men — plus a dozen or so poll workers and at least one nosy “observer.”

What I couldn’t help but notice is that I was the only man in the place who was wearing a tie, much less a full dress suit. I knew many of the men lined up there were heading to high tech or management jobs, but every one of them was dressed in casual pants and a sports shirt.

I felt just a little bit out of place. Not that I wouldn’t have been perfectly happy to have dressed like the rest, but there’s an unwritten rule at Campbell that university administrators and divinity school faculty are expected to wear formal suits while on campus, or at least a sport coat with a tie.

We are, of course, about the only people who still dress for success. Most other professors gave up on formal attire long ago. Apparently, a lot of business people have, too. Even preachers rarely wear a suit and tie these days, even in the pulpit, where a casual shirt and jeans have become de rigueur.

Which offers a new theory on why the economy is still in the toilet: men are no longer buying suits and dress shirts and neckties, all of which can be big ticket items. With a few pair of kakhis and a handful of shirts, they’re now set. Of course, high end retailers are trying to make up for it in other ways: I recently saw a Brooks Brothers ad promoting a “sale” on sports shirts: three for only $199(!). Before S&K Men’s Store went bankrupt, I could buy two new dress suits for the same price.

So, I have a new theory for getting the economy out of the tank. It appears that the state of the economy and the number of jobs probably has little to do with the elections — congress has become so dysfunctional, obstructionist and polarized in recent years that it doesn’t seem to matter much who officially “controls” it. Nor do I think the answer is to be found in the financial institutions on Wall Street.

No, the future of the economy may lie with the fashion mavens in New York City’s Garment District. If they can just persuade men that they need to wear suits again — and come up with some new styles that make their old suits hopelessly out of date — spending would surely increase, and the economic rebound would be felt from Soho to Frisco.

So, put on a new suit and tie, gents, and strut like a rooster. Do it for your country. 

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