Are fancy suits boring?

Are fancy suits boring?

Q. During the Super Bowl, why did the whole group in the pregame TV show wear suits? I know they all want to look professional, but they aren’t in an office and it’s pretty dull without any color across the desk. Howie Long looks like he’s there to run a board meeting.

A. I’m surprised that it bothers you. In a world where dress has become so casual, and a field where the entire subject is a game, I find it fun that they are putting their best look forward. They dress this way every Sunday of the season (although, in truth, I pretty much only see them at the Super Bowl), and you wouldn’t expect them to dress down for the biggest game, in front of 100 million people.

The cast of “Fox NFL Sunday” includes three former players: Long, Terry Bradshaw, and Michael Strahan;  a former coach in Jimmy Johnson; and Curt Menefee, a veteran broadcaster. In their 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, they are an age range when former athletes are often mocked for “letting it go.” Their effort to look professional, and use a suit to do so, is a smart choice. It also is something of a tribute to football where coaches long wore ties and jackets when baseball managers wore team uniforms.

Interestingly, for Strahan, the youngest of the group, I personally know this is nothing new. I had a one-on-one conversation with him during his playing days about his clothing choices. At the time, the 6 foot, 5 inch, 255-pound NY Giants star was chosen as the Rochester Big & Tall “Man of Style.” He mentioned dressing in his own style, and said that for him that meant suits. “I choose to wear suits almost all the time. We are in business; we should look like businessmen. I have a closet full of suits. It helps to look good; then you feel good. When you look and feel good, you play good. Based on the way you dress, you can go into every situation in control.” And this was when he was in his 20s. No wonder he has become so well-known and so wildly successful.

The idea of dressing in your own style or at least to present your personality is something I saw when I looked at all five men behind that desk – and note that even the desk is part of the professionalism. They each dressed for the Super Bowl in an individual style, similar to what they wear throughout the season. You mentioned that Long looked the most like he was in an office; I somewhat agree. He has a reputation as the most staid of the group and generally goes with a very traditional look. He wore a natural-shouldered, dark, two-piece suit with a solid white (I believe French cuff) shirt, white straight-line folded pocket handkerchief, and a distinctive but not distracting tie. Some may consider his spread collar more fashionable than traditional, but it was not extreme. .

Michael often wears the new three-piece suits with a matching vest and did so at the big game. His was blue in a large checked pattern. He wore it with a white spread-collar shirt and without a pocket square. Today, a three-piece suit says of the wearer “fashion-aware and up-to-date.” His elegant Patek Philippe rose gold watch was not overly large or obtrusive. The most distinctive element of his dapper look was a bold tie with wide horizontal stripes (not the typical diagonal stripes) of medium blue, light blue, and white. This coordinated with his suit and required skill to match. He pulled it off well, partially because it avoided the more-expected contrasting colors you asked about.

Johnson, a former coach, also wore a rather traditional suit with a white shirt, but he added a bright green patterned tie and a mostly hidden, different (I believe/hope) patterned green pocket square, also in Howie’s staid straight-line fold. His precisely-cut white hair and southern tan work well with the green and it accents his more jovial attitude.

Speaking of jovial attitudes, Bradshaw certainly has the reputation for being the most casual and, some would say, oldest (despite being five years younger than Johnson). His signature hat (a “newsboy cap”) was the key indication that he is down-playing a professional look; but even this casual accessory was in solid gray to match his suit. With a fairly indistinct suit, he chose a softly-pointed pocket square, a more patterned tie than the rest, and braces under his jacket. His pants’ being “suspended” gave just a touch of the grandpa/farmer image among the other more executive looks.

Menefee is meant to be more in the background, and does so with something of a more middle-ground look. He wore a traditional dark two-piece suit, a patterned pocket square, but folded flat and just peeking from his pocket. His patterned tie in muted colors was a professional look that did not draw too much attention.

As you can tell from these differences, “just wearing a suit” can vary significantly. These five looks didn’t just happen, in the same way as a football play doesn’t just happen. All of them are on purpose. They have been carefully planned and coached to work well together in appearance, just as the group’s football commentaries do. 

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