Green’s Dictionary of Slang

monkey suit n.

[note earlier monkey jacket under monkey n.]
(orig. US)

1. a uniform or overalls.

[[UK]London Mag. Mar. 110/2: [N]ot even his assumption of the ‘monkey dress’ of a courtier, as he is pleased to term it [...] will make his speculations fashionable].
[UK]C.M. Yonge Autobiog. in Coleridge C. M. Yonge (1903) 66: ‘Monkey suits’, with jacket and waistcoat all in one, and trousers fastened over , and white frilled collars — very hideous dress.
[US]N.Y. Tribune 15 Aug. 30/1: The name monkey suit was orginally derived in some mysterious way from union suit and remains in use in my family.
[US]Eve. Missourian (Columbia, MO) 28 June 3/1: The crew, unable to turn around in their tiny cockpits, grotesquely silhouetted in their monkey suits against the storm-swept sea.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Judgement Day in Studs Lonigan (1936) 674: ‘Nice looking monkey-suit you got me into,’ he said [...] after she had tied an apron on him.
[US]L. Hoban ‘Front – For Murder’ Popular Detective June 🌐 ‘Hop’ Gallagher, his form-fitting blue monkey suit agleam with brass buttons, surged from the bellhops’ bench of the nobby Hotel Siston.
[US](con. 1920s–30s) J.O. Killens Youngblood (1956) 398: Rob stood before the white man [...] all dressed up in his monkey suit.
[US]P. Crump Burn, Killer, Burn! 278: I’ve watched you ever since you’ve been in that monkey suit [i.e. a police uniform].
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 155: A gaunt white stud in a green monkey suit was standing [...] at the kerb.
[US]T. Thackrey Thief 121: I got my bag from the merry-go-round thing they deliver them on and got a guy in a monkey suit carry it to the sidewalk.
[UK]F. Norman Dead Butler Caper 43: There were a couple of butler’s monkey suits.
[US]N. McCall Makes Me Wanna Holler (1995) 334: The fellas [...] would immediately peg me by my uniform: the necktie and the monkey suit.
[US]G. Pelecanos Night Gardener 116: That had been Dan Holiday in the monkey suit [i.e. a chauffeur’s uniform].
[Aus]G. Disher Heat [ebook] Valet parking [...] A sense of entitlement when they drove right in and handed their keys to a guy in a monkey suit.
[US]Rayman & Blau Riker’s 94: [Of solitary confinement] They gave you a monkey suit; none of your own clothes.

2. (also monkey-back) a formal dress suit, evening dress; usu. as worn by a man but occas. by a woman.

[US]N.Y. Tribune 17 Dec. 4/1: ‘Chuck’ will for the first and only time in his life appear in a full dress suit —a ‘monkey suit’ as it is known in the Bowery.
[US]Wash. Herald (DC) 5 Mar. n.p.: He had not brought his dress suit [...] he had no idea he would use a monkey suit while at training camp.
[US]R. Lardner Big Town 125: The others [...] knew that they wouldn’t be enough suckers on hand to make any difference whether you wore a monkey suit or rompers.
[US]Wash. Times (DC) 24 Aug. 16/7: ‘Just pipe the “Monkey-Back,” / To buy that gorjus raiment he must have spent some Jack’.
[US]B. Hecht A Thousand and One Afternoons [ebook] ‘I've been to almost all the cafés, the swell ones with the monkey-suit waiters and the old ones I've known myself for years’.
[US]W.R. Burnett Iron Man 213: Do I have to wear a monkey suit?
[US]D. Burley N.Y. Amsterdam News 1 July 16: Up North you have 125th street to buy your ‘monkey-back suit’ and rayon dress.
[US]S. Longstreet Decade 153: I suppose he’s trotting around in a monkey suit.
[US]W. Winchell On Broadway 16 Jan. [synd. col.] G.B. Shaw was the first notable to revolt against the monkey suit for critics. He invaded the london black tie section in baggy tweeds.
[Aus]D. Niland Call Me When the Cross Turns Over (1958) 170: On these occasions he wore his moth-eaten monkey suit.
[UK]W. Manus Mott the Hoople 155: Yew dress up in a monkey suit and drive that cigar-smoking nigrah wherever he wants to go?
[UK]P. Theroux Picture Palace 242: Am I going to have a high old time in this monkey suit? No, I ain’t.
[US]‘Joe Bob Briggs’ Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In 33: Then this businesman kung-fus three other guys in monkey suits.
[Aus]L. Davies Candy 89: We were about to go home, get out of our monkey suits, get naked and get wasted.
[US]E. White My Lives 115: He thought I was a waiter in a monkey suit.

3. one who is wearing a uniform, e.g. a cinema usher.

[US]‘Joe Bob Briggs’ Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In 189: If the Adolphus Hotel puts a lot of monkey-suits out on the sidewalk to keep everybody out of the lobby, then it’s okay to barf on them too.

4. any suit.

[UK]P. Baker Blood Posse 192: He wore a black pin-striped suit [...] ‘Think you’re some big shot because you’re wearing a monkey suit.’.
[US]‘Dutch’ ? (Pronounced Que) [ebook] ‘Let’s get outta here, so I can get out of this monkey suit,‘ [...] he loosed his tie and unbuttoned the jacket of his Armani suit.
Twitter 20 Oct. 🌐 Is a ‘groomsman’ suit the same as these monkey suits you see everywhere now? They are too tight about the ankle and the waist and too short all round.