The Happy Academic's dress codes

John Lovas talked about the clothes teachers wear here and also here. I would have posted to his blog about this, but I can’t quite figure out how the comment feature works. Perhaps I’m just slow….

Anyway, a couple of thoughts on academic clothes before I get ready for school myself:

* I used to not think much about my teaching clothing one way or the other, but I have gone through a few different phases in which I do dress up for teaching days. I’m in one of those phases right now: I “dressed up” (which I define as wearing a tie and/or a jacket, nice pants, ironed shirts, etc., but not a full-blown suit) during the Winter 2004 term, not so much over the summer (too hot), and I’m dressing up right now.

I was previously in a “dress-up” phase about six or seven years ago at my first tenure-track job at Southern Oregon University. I was feeling dressy then for a variety of different reasons, including the fact that I was on the job market. I’m dressing up now not so much because of that (though I am indeed “on the market,” as the saying goes), but because of a couple of functions my wife and I went to last Christmas on the same night. The first party was something having to do with work– the faculty union, in fact. The second party was something having to do with a friend of my wife’s; it had nothing to do with EMU, and we were told it was to be a kind of dressed-up affair. So, for the heck of it (and because my wife encouraged me), I put on a tie and jacket. People at the first party, not used to seeing me in anything more dressy than khaki pants or jeans and a oxford shirt, were a bit taken aback. All these people I worked with came up to me and said “wow, you look good!” And it got me to thinking: what the hell did I look like before?

Anyway, I figured I have a bunch of nice clothes and I might as well wear them. So I am.

* A coat and tie for me is much more of a “costume” than a “uniform.” This is something that John discusses in his blog in some detail, but basically what I think he means is a uniform is something you wear all the time (as an example, he talks about the look cultivated by someone like Nixon: “It’s almost impossible to imagine Richard Nixon in a t-shirt. He so cultivated a single look that I imagine he walked on the beach in a coat and tie.”), while a costume is something one wears for an occassion and for a particular effect. I’m a costume wearer, and the costume is for teaching. And maybe really special meetings. In fact, I’m on campus doing other things all the time– meetings, paperwork, research, etc.– and wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I suspect this makes my fashion sense all the more confusing to those around me.

* Oddly, I find that dressing up doesn’t make that much difference with my students, but it does make a difference with my colleagues. I find that kind of amusing. Maybe I should just dress up for my non-teaching functions.

* A slightly tongue-in-cheek aside: I don’t think too much about the dress of my students, except when it comes to hats. I am of the opinion that a baseball cap is not appropriate fashion in classrooms for anyone. I think one ought to wear a cap like that only while engaged in or possibly watching some sort of sport. However, I also think that students who decide to wear baseball caps to class ought to always wear a baseball cap. I’ve had students– both men and women– who showed up to class week after week in a baseball cap, and who then all of a sudden show up one day without it. They often look so different than what I’m used to I’m thrown completely off. So if you start with the hat, stick with the hat.

Okay, gotta go get out of these gym clothes and into… costume, I suppose…

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