Dressing Like A Professor

Posted on by Brooke

A good friend of mine tells me about a seminar in which an uncomfortable, even heated, exchange arose over “dressing like a professor.”

For my part, I used to dress informally when teaching. In short order, I realized that:

  • I look younger than many of my students;

  • I am younger than many of my students;

  • Many of my students don’t respect the au-tho-ri-tah of some kid in jeans. Even in jeans and a sweater. Even in sunglasses.

So, pretty early on, I learned that I have to “suit up.”

Except for my tennies. And except for examination days, when according to custom so long-standing as to amount to superstition on my part, I make a point of dressing down.

Besides, in the immortal words of Joey “the lips” Fagan, “All the Motown brothers wore suits. You play better in your suit.”

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Of course—the devil is always in the details—there are still the finer points, especially for women (after all, why should this be an area where professional women don’t live in a perpetual double-bind)? Must a prof be dowdy? Is it possible to be too hip? Or even too (gasp) “feminine” (that is, shaped vaguely like a human female)?

So, for your part: what does it mean for you to “dress like a professor”? To what extent may a professor “embrace her/his inner fashionista (or fashionisto)”?

[Dressing Like A Professor was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2010/03/03. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]