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What Is an Empty Suit?

The term “suit” can refer to a number of things—an article of clothing, the groupings of playing cards (hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades), a petition filed before the court, or the pursuit of something (follow suit). “Suit” is also the basis of many figures of speech. For example, someone can be called a “suit” or even an “empty suit”.

A “suit” is someone who occupies a high managerial person. It is derived from the fact that many big bosses do wear suits—and expensive ones at that. An “empty suit” on the other hand is someone who does not have the position, but makes up for it by being arrogant or a show-off. It can also mean a person of authority who does not really deserve the position, nor the salary nor respect that comes with it.

Thus “empty suit” has come to mean a phony, or someone inefficient and incompetent. He is all talk and no action, or all arrogance and no substance. Might as well have a mannequin in a suit sitting in his corner office, because that’s the same level of intelligence and productivity that anyone can expect from him.

The phrase “empty suit” is also used in the political arena, to describe people who are pursuing important political positions (such as the presidency) but does not actually have the experience, skill or political backing to be taken seriously by the media or the public. It can also be applied to politician who is in office but rarely attends senate sessions.

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