Perspective: The Suit

Oct 29, 2019

This fall I’ve given several public readings from my new book, which means I’ve had to dust off The Suit. If you know me, you’ve surely seen The Suit. I got it twenty years ago, when I was finishing my PhD and interviewing for jobs.

“You know, Fink,” said John Goulet, my major professor at UW-Milwaukee, “you’re going to have to go in debt for a suit.”

“A suit,” I gulped. I didn’t know anything about formal wear. But as a graduate student I did know about debt.

“Listen,” Dr. Goulet said, recognizing my unease. “I’ll take you shopping. But bring your credit card.”

Later that week, we spent the afternoon at a men’s store in Walker’s Point choosing The Suit. It’s a handsome grey garment with an olive hue. At the checkout, Dr. Goulet told me to put away my credit card. To this day, I’m humbled by that act of generosity.

And to this day, I wear The Suit for most special occasions. I still have just the one. In 2000, I got my first job offer in The Suit, which took me to California. In 2005, I got another, which brought me to Beloit College. In 2009, at a nice farm in Oregon, Il. I got married in to my wife Breja in The Suit. And in 2010, I eulogized my father wearing it. In 2018, when Dr. Goulet passed away, I thought it only fitting to wear The Suit to his memorial service in Milwaukee, where I told the story of The Suit, and of his enduring generosity. Of course, by then The Suit wasn’t just a suit; it had become a symbol. But you don’t need a professor of English to tell you that.

I’m Chris Fink and that’s my perspective.