Higher EducationPop Quiz

Pop Quiz: What do you wear to teach?

Happy Monday, Doubt Scholars!

Check out this interview with art teacher Cassie Stephens (h/t miserlyoldman) in which she shows off a variety of artist-inspired dresses she wears when teaching students! Seriously go look. It’s worth a click.

This got me thinking a bit about what we choose to wear in the classroom. It’s not uncommon to hear people lament that, of all highly-educated professionals, professors are by far the worst-dressed. What any given complainer means by this, however, can differ substantially: either professors wear too many dull and/or stodgy items tweed jackets with elbow patches, or they dress informally to the point of slovenliness. Of course, there is no reason both can’t be true at the same time, as any look around a contemporary campus will show.

And while tenure might offer some buffer against poor sartorial choices, it’s hard to deny that students and colleagues do judge us on the way we present ourselves in the workplace. This is especially true for women and junior scholars, who often have to work a little harder to get students to afford them the same levels of deference and respect that they do our older and/or male-er colleagues.

In fact, just about the first bit of advice my advisor gave me about classroom teaching was that suit-style jackets were simply better at projecting authority than other garments (gee I wonder why?). To this day I nearly always wear one when teaching, weather permitting.

What do you wear to teach? Do students take you more or less seriously when you dress in different ways? Would the profession benefit as a whole from embracing more “professional” dress codes across the board?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons (ET).

Featured image: A tweed jacket, from PKM.

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Dan holds a PhD in Music History from a major Canadian university and is now pursuing a M.Ed in Higher Education at another one, because he likes to collect very expensive paper. He performs stand-up comedy at venues all over Toronto when he's not busy playing JRPGs with his cat, Roy. You can follow him at @incontrariomotu, but he isn't going anywhere. You can also send him a tip on PayPal (paypal.me/dandonnelly) if you like his work!

1 Comment

  1. December 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm —

    I will admit to being a bit of a snob about this. I teach at a small liberal arts college where no one ever tells us what to wear, and I have several colleagues who (IMO) dress like complete slobs. Jeans every day, shorts and mandals (shudder) in the summer, etc. While I appreciate the freedom we’re allowed as professionals to make our choices about such things, in my heart of hearts I wish someone would tell them to put some goddamn shoes on already.

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