I know that before even reading anything, about half of your pointers are over the comment button and you’re ready to type out a message that could be distilled into “I think suits on dates are stupid.” I know you do. This post is an explanation of why some people think they aren’t, and indeed, consider them essential attire for the young man when he first shows up to take out a prospective.
There are three reasons to wear clothing. The first is utility. Clothing protects one from the elements, and specific clothing may be necessary to do specific work, such as overalls for a chemical plant operator or a big plastic suit for those who work with biohazards. For those with white collar jobs or who aspire to vocations in Talmudic study, a suit is such a work-mandated uniform. Therefore, a suit serves almost the same purpose as the antelope dinner did to Igga—it demonstrates what the wearer’s social demographic and/or income bracket looks like. Of course, anyone could just buy a suit for dating purposes. However, the parents of daughters are sure that young men will understand instinctively, even if they are not well-read, the advice of Henry David Thoreau, “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.” If you need to buy clothing to date, you’re probably looking in the wrong place.
The first blends with the second reason to wear clothing: affiliation. A kilt affiliates one with a Scottish highland clan, whereas baggy, beltless pants affiliates one with prison inmates. A suit, for the student of Talmudic Law, shows his affiliation with the community of Talmudic Lawyers. (You can usually differentiate these from the American Lawyers by the color of the accompanying tie.) Other communities may dress up by wearing pink shirts or tan chinos or any number of other ways. Showing up in a suit demonstrates that you affiliate with the suit-wearing crowd. If “dressed up” and “suit” do not coincide in your mind, then do not bother to court someone from the suited crowd. They will be peeved from the very first expansive sight of your shirtfront. If “dressed up” and “first date” do not coincide in your mind, then either skip to reason three, or skip this post entirely.
Reason three is oft-forgotten. I was reminded of it a few Shobbosim ago while admiring the beautiful yet practical layout of the Breuer’s shul in Washington Heights. “When I grow up, I want to be a yeki,” I decided impulsively. Then I noticed the things that were obstructing my view of the layout—namely, the men. Or what was on them. I noticed that, oddly enough, their suits fit. There were no vertical or horizontal wrinkles in the backs I was looking at. Jackets didn’t hang from shoulders as if from hangers. Pants broke neatly across well-polished shoes. It was a lone outpost of non-lawyers who could wear dress pants and concurrently look well-dressed. There was a sartorial symbiotic relationship going on down there—they dignified their clothing, and their clothing dignified them.
Which is the point. The point of wearing clothing, the point of wearing a suit, and the reason for both of the first two reasons for wearing clothing/suits. (Yes, that made sense. Just reread it if necessary.) By dressing in a dignified and handsome manner, you show respect for yourself, but even more so, to the people who have to look at you. Dressier clothing means the date is more important to you and that you ascribe more importance to your impression.
Or else that you heard you have to show up in a suit, so you did.