"Frankly, I couldn’t see myself standing in a muddy pigsty talking to a successful pig farmer dressed in a three-piece suit," writes David Biggs. Picture: Reuters
On two occasions during my long career I actually turned down offers of high-paying jobs, and on each occasion it was for the same reason - I would have had to wear a suit to work. There are professions in which a suit adds gravitas and formality, but I don’t think journalism is one of them.

The first job offer was to edit a farming magazine published by an oil company. As I sat in the interview room I noticed that all the males who passed the door wore almost identical grey three-piece suits.

I mentioned this to my interviewer and asked whether suit-wearing was a requirement.

He harrumphed and said, “Well, we do expect our employees to abide by certain standards.”

Frankly, I couldn’t see myself standing in a muddy pigsty talking to a successful pig farmer dressed in a three-piece suit.

The second offer was to edit a wine-related magazine and I was told in no uncertain terms that a suit was a requirement and so was membership of the local country club.

I almost fell for that one, but the lifestyle restrictions outweighed the thought of working surrounded by endless wine cellars.

As a junior reporter I was told to bring a jacket and tie to work in case my job took me to a function where they were required.

Sensibly, however, I was not asked to dress formally all the time.

I have always considered ties to be a rather odd item of clothing. Why should a strip of cloth worn round the neck add respectability to your dress? But it does. I think working dress should be a matter of common sense.

If your job keeps you tucked away behind a computer keyboard all day I don’t suppose it makes much difference whether you wear a three-piece suit or underpants and takkies.

If, on the other hand, you job requires you to gain the confidence of potential clients, maybe a neat jacket and pair of clean pants would be appropriate.

I am always grateful when I am shopping in a large store to find staff wearing official badges and uniforms.

It saves the embarrassment of going up to other shoppers and asking where to find the cat food. (“How should I know? I’m looking for laxatives.”)

Male attire is full of strange traditions. Do you know why men’s jackets have buttons on the cuffs? They cannot be fastened or unfastened, but they’re there.

I read recently that the tradition started in the army and the buttons were sewn on to soldiers’ cuffs so they couldn’t wipe their noses on their uniform sleeves. Don’t want the enemy to see you in snotty sleeves now, do we?

Last Laugh

An efficiency expert was giving a lecture on time saving and he ended his talk by saying: “A word of warning. I don’t think you should try these time-saving hints at home.”

A voice from the audience asked: “Why not, sir?”

“Well,” he said, “I watched my wife make breakfast every morning and it took her 23 minutes to do it her way.”

* "Tavern of the Seas" is a daily column written in the Cape Argus by David Biggs.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus