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In-universe, why did MiB uniform consist of black suits? Is there some significance to that attire?

And, why only black suits?

Zed: The last suit you'll ever wear.

It would seem that their type of job, they would need to sometimes blend in - wear casual, or other kind of suit, or fake police uniform (rarely black).

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  • 1
    Please note that this question is NOT a duplicate of scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/50796/…, which deals with retirement; this deals specifically with uniforms WHILE MiB Nov 13, 2015 at 16:57
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    In-universe answer: They're government agents and there are no casual Fridays.
    – user40790
    Nov 13, 2015 at 17:21
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    Because if the suits were green, they'd have to change their name to Men in Green :P Nov 13, 2015 at 17:42
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    @Salmononius2: That's actually part of Mercedes Lackey's "Elves in LA" series. The government organization got help from one of the bane-sidhe to have suits that make them invisible to the fae and it just so happens that the material is emerald green and can't be dyed.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Nov 13, 2015 at 18:29
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    @Salmononius2: I'm just imagining MiB's with a clown costume :-D
    – arc_lupus
    Nov 13, 2015 at 21:21

3 Answers 3

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To look like the FBI

The MiB frequently impersonate the FBI as part of their cover.

KAY: Give her time to get the wrong impression. Makes it smoother.

...

KAY: Yes, ma'am. I'm Agent Manheim, this is Agent Black, FBI. We'd like to talk about your visitor. - Men in Black - Subtitle Transcript

Since the public's impression is that the FBI frequently wear black suits (which is in fact true), it makes sense for MiB agents to do so as well.

To look as non-memorable as possible:

Zed identifies that the goal of an MiB's attire is specifically to prevent strong memories from being created:

Zed: You'll have no identifying marks of any kind. You will not stand out in any way. Your entire image is crafted... to leave no lasting memory with anyone you meet.

enter image description here
Men In Black: The Movie: Graphic Novelisation

To conform to the myth

In the source comic, it's made clear that the reason why they wear black suits is because the myth is that the MiB wear black suits.

enter image description here

So that people will remember the suit, not who was wearing it

Zed said, "Your new image is being crafted so you don't stand out."

"I dunno, up in Harlem, that suit might make me look like a Muslim. Fit right in with Brother Farrakan and the Fruit of Islam."

Zed ignored him and continued: "You won't leave much of an impression in anybody's memory. What they probably will recall, if anything, will be the suit." - MiB: A Novel - Steve Perry

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    Well done, sir.
    – Mindwin
    Nov 13, 2015 at 18:31
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    Next question: Why do the FBI mainly wear black suits?
    – Pharap
    Nov 15, 2015 at 9:22
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    @Pharap - Because if they wore white suits, people would get them confused for the 'Man from Del Monté'
    – Valorum
    Jan 1, 2016 at 14:08
  • What is that FBI link supposed to link to? Just the top level faq? Jan 4, 2019 at 17:36
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    @ToddSewell - It used to contain some info about the FBI 'dress code' for field operations which mentioned the wearing of business attire. Since that's gone now, I've removed the link. It was only for background anyway.
    – Valorum
    Jan 4, 2019 at 19:05
16

Obvious answer, they're meant to be the prototypical Men in Black which UFO folklore has covering up incidents by altering the scene and eliminating witnesses. Why black suits? They're associated with government figures due to a combination of formality requiring regular wearing of suits and low wages meaning that a government employee only owns so many suits — dark suits don't show stains as badly, so you can wear them more days in a row. Therefore, government agents, or beings want to look like government agents, would show up in a dark suit. In addition, you have the association of black with mourning clothing, which means that this monochromatic sartorial styling adds an association of death and lack of humor to the agents.

As to why the MiB of the movie universe haven't moved on to something less conspicuous, for one, the legends of dark-suited men coming around for strange happenings simply provides a standard uniform. People are likely to listen to someone who looks suitably governmental. Lastly, it provides a standard uniform for the group, providing a sense of unity and belonging, and I can vouch from experience that governments take a long time to change their stylings.

From a practical standpoint, suits make for lousy field clothing — they tend to be hot and restrictive, and the risk of damage in the field means you'd generally prefer to be wearing something else if you face combat. But in the context of supertechnology, a full suit makes sense because it covers much of the body, allowing you to hide armor, and typically includes many pockets, allowing you to hide more gadgets. The usual liabilities of heat and restriction are dealt with by futuristic materials.

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  • How is that IN UNIVERSE? Nov 13, 2015 at 17:13
  • I added a bit more to the answer. :)
    – FuzzyBoots
    Nov 13, 2015 at 17:16
  • Darn it... now I'm singing the theme song under my breath.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Nov 13, 2015 at 17:17
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    @Axelrod: His point is well-taken in a chicken-and-egg viewpoint. We have legends of the Men in Black in our universe, which means it makes sense for the fictional characters to be the same thing, but presumably, in this universe, they are the genesis for the folklore.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Nov 13, 2015 at 17:18
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    @SeanDuggan What else would you expect government agents to wear? We'd have urban legends of Men In Hawaiian Shirts if the FBI and CIA had looser dress codes.
    – user40790
    Nov 13, 2015 at 17:30
1

No one looks twice at a casual gentleman in a suit and tie. To them they appear insignificant. Though a uniform all black with sunglasses perpetuates the classic "G-Men" government motif, a no nonsense, plain concept of mass uniformity, therefore virtually impossible to discern one individual from another, exactly how a government who has to hide details likes it. In reality most federal US law enforcement agencies have a dress code, though in real life, the FBI doesn't prescribe a uniform color suit.

Former FBI counter-terrorism agent Jon Tasch, explains, he wore a suit about 5% of the time.

  • Street agents wear what the general populace wears.

  • Those that specialise in IT/tech crime dress the same as Silicon Valley, business casual.

  • Those that operate in the field, outdoors will wear outdoor oriented clothes.

  • Administrative, leadership and office officials do wear suits for the majority of their tenure.

    The proliferation of tactical apparel for casual people has exploded in popularity (5.11 tactial, oakley brand) The Suit and tie has given way to Cargo/khaki pants, polo, button up optional sleeves. enter image description here

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