Monkey Suit: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
September 16, 2023

The term "monkey suit" is a colloquial way of referring to formal attire, typically a business suit. It's often used lightheartedly or slightly dismissively, highlighting the contrast between the more formal clothing and one's usual attire. The phrase can be employed in casual conversations and humorous contexts.

In short:

  • It refers to formal clothing, particularly a business suit.
  • It's a playful or informal term that can be used to discuss dressing up for formal occasions with a touch of humor.

What Does "Monkey Suit" Mean?

The idiom "monkey suit" is a playful and somewhat informal way of referring to a tuxedo or formal outfit. It's not always limited to just tuxedos; sometimes, it can mean any overly formal attire in which someone might feel awkward or out of place.

  • It refers to a tuxedo or formal wear.
  • It can describe any outfit that feels overly formal or uncomfortable.
  • It's used playfully, often when someone isn't used to wearing such attire.

Many people might use this term when they're not used to dressing up and feel a bit out of their element, much like a monkey might in a suit!

Where Does "Monkey Suit" Come From?

The exact origins of the term "monkey suit" are a bit hazy, but there are some theories and historical instances of its use. The most common belief is that the term was used in the early 20th century.

Historical Mentions

“Had to wear that monkey suit to the dinner last night. Felt all out of sorts!” - Diary entry from a businessman, 1932.

The term likely originated from the idea that a person, especially one unaccustomed to formal wear, might feel as out of place or awkward as a monkey would in human clothing.

10 Examples of "Monkey Suit" in Sentences

To give you a better grasp of how "monkey suit" is used, let's take a look at some examples:

  • He believed wearing a monkey suit was the key to climbing the social ladder, but he soon realized that genuine connections mattered more than appearances.
  • I heard you ripped your monkey suit right before the gala. That's too bad!
  • Why did I agree to this event? I hate wearing a monkey suit!
  • You look strange in that monkey suit. I'm used to seeing you in jeans and a T-shirt!
  • Before putting on his monkey suit, he needs at least three cups of coffee to kickstart his day.
  • He has a collection of outfits: a navy tuxedo, a classic black monkey suit, and a tailored white blazer, to name a few.
  • The gala event requires all men to be in monkey suits.
  • Donned in his monkey suit, Jake arrived fashionably late to the gala, making quite the entrance.
  • You only turn 50 once, so I decided to buy the fanciest monkey suit I could find!
  • He sighed as he looked at the monkey suit hanging in his closet, knowing he had to wear it for the ceremony.

Examples of "Monkey Suit" in Pop Culture

The term "monkey suit" has been used in various media and pop culture references:

  • In the TV show "Friends," Joey refers to his tuxedo as a monkey suit.
  • The song "Monkey Suit" by El-P references the term metaphorically.
  • In a comedic sketch, a character begrudgingly referred to his Oscars outfit as his monkey suit.

Other/Different Ways to Say "Monkey Suit"

There are several ways to convey the idea of a "monkey suit."

Here's a list of alternatives:

  • Formal attire
  • Dress suit
  • Evening wear
  • Black-tie outfit
  • Tuxedo

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Monkey Suit"

  • What is a "monkey suit"?

A "monkey suit" is an informal and playful term for a tuxedo or formal attire.

  • When did the term "monkey suit" start being used?

The term likely started being used in the early 20th century.

  • Is "monkey suit" disrespectful?

Not necessarily. It's often used playfully, especially when someone feels out of place in formal attire.

  • Can "monkey suit" refer to women's clothing?

While traditionally referring to men's tuxedos, it can sometimes be used playfully for formal women's attire.

  • Is wearing a "monkey suit" mandatory for all formal events?

No, the requirement depends on the event's dress code.

  • Why is it called a "monkey suit" and not another animal?

The exact reason is unknown, but the term likely relates to someone feeling as out of place as a monkey would in human clothes.

  • Do people still use the term "monkey suit" today?

Yes, it's still used, especially in a playful or comedic context.

  • Is there a song named "Monkey Suit"?

Yes, El-P has a song titled "Monkey Suit."

  • Can the term "monkey suit" be used outside of English?

While the English term might be understood, it's not a universal idiom and might not translate well in other languages.

  • Is "monkey suit" the only term for a tuxedo?

No, there are other terms like "tux," "black tie," and "evening suit."

Final Thoughts About "Monkey Suit"

The term "monkey suit" is a fun way to describe formal attire. Over the years, this playful term has made its way into our vocabulary, reminding us not to take ourselves too seriously.

Here's a quick wrap-up:

  • It refers to a tuxedo or formal attire.
  • It Originated in the early 20th century.
  • It is often used when someone feels out of place in dressy attire.

Next time you're headed to a fancy event and begrudgingly putting on that tuxedo, remember – you're not alone in feeling like you're in a "monkey suit"!

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