AS THIS column reported last summer, the American press is waging a sly attack against the well-dressed man. At that time we disclosed the plot to destroy the good character of the suit.
The smear campaign against the suit -- that grand old foundation of the American male's wardrobe -- aims to associate it exclusively with unspeakable people. Because RussellBakerthis column believes in the suit and hates to see a great traditional American garment badly treated, whether by incompetent dry-cleaners or a sneering press, we have stayed with the story.
In July we detached investigative haber--ery reporter Seymour LaPelle to comb the notorious Eastern Establishment Press for new developments. His report just arrived, dated Oct. 8. Whether this delay results from postal breakdown or more sinister events, we do not know since LaPelle, under deep cover, can be reached only by telegram and only if it is delivered by a messenger wearing pearl-gray spats, black bowler and a Savile Row worsted pinstripe worn under a chesterfield.
His report follows:
"The Eastern Media conspiracy is still at it, chief -- still twisting the news to make it look as if suits are worn only by sleazebags. And it's getting worse: This gang is going after the overcoat when they finish smearing the suit. Here's the dope:
"My first suit sighting came on the Metroliner while reading the September issue of Spy magazine. Just outside Baltimore, I spotted the following:
" 'Edge' has long been Fox's buzzword, but many of the MEDDLESOME SUITS who program the network tend to get anxious when actually confronted with it. . . .'
"I can't decipher the breezy New York lingo, but it's pretty obvious that the 'meddlesome suits' are no-good guys. Now brace yourself, chief. Remember August? The Moscow flopperoo coup? At the time I was under shallow cover in Washington and came across the following by Mary McGrory, who I'm told is totally 100 percent in favor of well-dressed men, yet this is what she wrote in the Washington Post about the guys behind the coup:
"'In Moscow and in Leningrad (the people) had planted themselves in the path of peril to tell THE WOODEN OVERCOATS on the State Emergency Committee that they were sick and tired of gangster rule.'
"Chief, I fear escalation is coming: first the suit is attacked as the garment of the world's worst people, then the good old overcoat is used to badmouth coup plotters. Imagine my shock about old-time commie bosses:
" '. . . who every November interrupted the unending work of oppression to don LEADEN COATS and review the troops in Red Square.'
"Meanwhile, suit-bashing was still raging. New York magazine, for instance, used the coup story to dump on suits. The way I read it, the gray suit had replaced the black hat as villainy's telltale garment. 'EMPTY GRAY SUITS' was the headline on its piece in which Joe Klein described Gennadi Yanayev's press conference. 'It was difficult to get past Yanayev's GRAY SUIT and gray tie, which melted into Boris Pugo's (great name for a thug) GRAY SUIT on his right and Oleg Baklanov's on his left.'
"OK, you know who else is giving the suit the business? The great Elmore Leonard. Sad, isn't it? But here it is in 'Get Shorty,' page 210: 'Two to one she'd tell a friend of hers about it ($300,000 in dirty money) and pretty soon the SUITS would come by, knock on the door, flash their I.D.'s. . . .'
"It's a hood talking about cops, of course. Still -- say it ain't so, Elmore.
"Now here's a new twist: comic suits. 'Doonesbury' has a sleazy character named Duke sneering at his accountant, which provokes a female slavey to say: 'He's a SUIT, sir. You're a visionary.'
"Shall I go on, chief? I've got Tony Kornheiser, another of the Washington Post's haber--ery-besotted columnists, explaining how to get something done in Washington. For instance: '. . . a lot of SUITS have to sign off before it's built. And not just local SUITS. . . . One way or another all urban growth and SUIT-SQUABBLING is about parking lots. . . .'"
LaPelle ended his report by requesting permission to quit wearing his suit on the job. Permission refused, LaPelle, wherever you are.
Russell Baker is a columnist for the New York Times