A couple weeks ago I finally saw Penny Suit Man.
Penny Suit Man is one of Philly’s more elusive street characters. Like the Toynbee tiler, Mister James the El-Prophet*, the elderly lady at 12th and Market that dresses like a school girl and smears lipstick across her face, Sign Guy**, Jesus is White guy, the Zulu Warrior and many others, Penny Suit man is one small piece of what makes this city so beautifully fucked up.
For some reason, most of these characters are generally hemmed in by 8th and Broad, Sansom and Arch. Spotted at one of those mosaic benches near 12th and Filbert, Penny Suit Man fit the mold.
But what is Penny Suit Man?
Very simply, he wears an armored suit made of pennies. It looks like a normal fabric suit, with thousands and thousands of coins glued to it. His shoes are enormous, with a 3 or 4 inches of armor attached. They must weigh 10 pounds each.
While passing by, I was filled with glee. I’d heard of him but had never actually seen him. He sat alone, shimmering in the streetlights like some southern gentleman wearing a suit made out of pennies. I tried to catch his eye and send some kind of non-verbal acknowledgment to all his hard work, but he was too busy staring at my girlfriend with a disquieting focus of sexual rage. Penny Suit Man might have a cool suit, but he’s also a little weird… and kind of frightening.
*Mister James sticks religious notes in schedule holders on the Market Frankford line. Double-sided and written in magic marker, the notes include notable quotes like: “Some rich + educated Humans are partakers with Satans own who goes around stealing killing poor folks that sleep walk in these filthy, nasty, smelly, dirty, fowl, gross, diseased, germed filled, cursed, lousy, unjust, uncooth, odd, weird, grotesk, repugnant, devil infested streets.” Here’s a scan of one of Mister James’s notes, scanned by Justin Duerr:
**Sign Guy stays West of Broad, generally in the vicinity of 17th and Chestnut. I saw him last week at 20th and Market as he worked a large sign into his cap. Here’s a photo of sign guy taken by Albert Yee: