Professional Dress

who would heed a lawyer, financial advisor or doctor who showed up in dirty jeans, a frayed sport shirt, filthy running shoes etc. etc., who carried his professional papers in a nylon backpack? Not even a department dominated by radical egalitarians would hire a job applicant who arrived as if he was on the way to the beach. This would be insulting, a sign of disinterest in the job, and these egalitarians would be right.

At a minimum, dressing well informs students that one is serious about classroom responsibilities. If I can spend an extra hour before class matching ties and shirts, checking for stains, polishing my wingtips, combing my hair and all the rest, you can certainly pay attention.

from Professors Should Dress Like Professionals

This is something I have struggled with all of my academic career. My professors at my undergrad dressed nicely. The men wore suits. The women wore dresses or nice pantsuits. I was shocked when I went to Purdue and the professors showed up in pants and shirts, male and female. But now I don’t dress up as much as I used to. I wonder if part of that is a problem of my own perception.

Any comments on how we dress like professionals?

3 thoughts on “Professional Dress”

  1. Where I’m working, I often get weird looks because I dress so well. But I’m celebrating the fact that I can wear my nice clothes again.

    The two years I spent as an adjunct and the one year I was on the tenure-track, I was either pregnant or postpartum. By the end of both of my pregancies, there was only one pair of pants that fit me. So, yeah, not really a stellar dresser. I did, however, buy two suits for my MLA interviews during that postpartum year.

    Where I started as an adjunct, we were told not to dress to formally, because it would intimidate our students. While on the TT, I worked at a school where the professors prided themselves on their professional dress, in part because they believed it was part of their job to model what it meant to be a professional to our students.

    As a grad student…Well, I was in my early 20s, so I took some liberties. Highlight: wearing leather pants to teach. They were…tasteful leather pants. But the one year I was president of the Graduate Students’ Association, I always made sure I was well-dressed for any and all university-level meetings I had to attend.

    Now I think I should be modeling proper professional attire for my students (she says while wearing the jeans she wore to teach today). But I more often than not wear skirts, dresses and dressier pants. My husband always wears a shirt and tie (at least when he’s teaching). But we’re the exception where we teach now. Maybe I’m using the excuse of professionalism to justify my contrariness.

    I’ve never had a professor who was well-dressed. The best-dressed people on campus seem to be the administrators.

  2. I tend to dress business casual during regular terms. For one thing, it’s just my style and habit of dress because I’ve worked in professional settings in other career fields where dressing business causal was required. It does make me feel a certain way to be dressed up. During the summer, I tend to dress more casually because I’m in the South and the classes are marathon classes, so I need to be as comfortable as possible. I had profs who dressed very casually and I had some who always wore a sports jacket and oxford shirt, at the very least. Their style of dress did not matter as much to me as their teaching ability. I would not be impressed by a teacher who was ineffective, no matter how well-dressed they are. On the same hand, I don’t think that professors should look like their students (at least my students, who often look like they just got out of bed, left the gym, or came home from the local strip club).

  3. I think there is no need to overdo it with formal wear – students either care about your teaching abilities or they simply do not care at all. But I agree with TanyaT, difference between professors and students should probably remain visible somehow.

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