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Any College Professors here? - Page 3

post #31 of 75
You're fortunately in a job where you have a great deal of freedom to dress as you please. At my university, folks run the gamut from sharp and distinctive to frumpy and cheap. But for me, I want to dress in a way significantly better than my students.

Even so, I wear a wide range of clothes depending on season/mood; however, everything is something I feel I can rock and feel comfortable in. I rarely wear suits on campus; this isn't because I don't feel comfortable in a suit, but rather because the campus is less formal and I'd prefer to not look like an administrator. At least until I am one. The suits I prefer look 1000% better than even those of our administrators, so I reserve those for conferences and other formal settings.

But whatever I choose to wear I make it a point to wear clothes that are a better fit and with nicer details, even if it's just a polo shirt and jeans. People notice, even if they don't say anything.
post #32 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by joelmccrea View Post

I'm in a similar boat as the OP. One thing I've noticed is that in my field and to some extent my department one can get away with dressing up some as long as the result does not looks remotely appropriate for the business world. Dandyish works well, and tweedy works OK.

I never thought about it that way, but it's like that here as well: quirky is highly appreciated, visceral emotions well up when you look like a banker
post #33 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by umbelragazzo 
There are some places in the US where literally one prof in 200 will wear a tie to class. I think in Europe it's much more common.
Quote:
Originally Posted by RogerC 
Depends where in Europe, and depends which departments. The Brits tend to wear ties more often, the Dutch and Belgians much less. Also, natural science departments dress less formally than humanities and social science departments, or at least, that's my experience.
I have worked in Britain (where indeed ties are more common) and occasionally in Norway (where they definitely are not - the level of formality/informality there is similar to that in the Netherlands). What is said about the apparent hostility to the tie in the USA amazes me - to me a tie is the way to add colour, formality and individuality all at the same time, and I have never found wearing a tie to be uncomfortable.
My experience is that natural scientists dress more conventionally (not the same as more formally - the current convention may be informal or even untidy), while social scientists do the opposite; but this probably also varies from country to coutry.
post #34 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by RogerC View Post

I'm a junior academic, and in pretty much the same situation as you. I have three basic getup patterns:

1: no meetings or teaching today : smart jeans/chinos, more informal shirt, cardigan or other knitwear

2: internal meeting or teaching today: smart jeans/chinos/slacks, dress shirt, sports coat, usually no tie

3: external meeting, conference or ceremony: suit

Also, the things that make you look different from students are as much about quality and fit as they are about the category of things you wear. A badly fitting suit will make you look bad always. Nice shoes are another kicker, and of course, open your mind to the world of tweed.

Sounds reasonable. I've always been much the same as this. In a public policy post and running an MPA degree, I've spent more time than most with public servants etc so end up wearing a suit more than most of my colleagues though it is a business school and a few chose to wear suits all the time (not well, as a rule). Suits on younger staff are generally the preserve of smarmy blow-hards and I wouldn't recommend it.
I would add that, if you're still very young and/or look very young, go easy on the sports jackets too. It can look like you're dressing up. It's a natural response to your first post to want to dress maturely and authoritatively - I remember doing it myself - but it's easy to end up looking like an uptight arsehole. If you're young, you can relate to the students in different ways from somebody in the 40s so don't suddenly start pretending you're middle aged in an effort to show them how damned clever and authoritative you are: students can sniff out a pretense and general twattiness from a mile away. You'll do better at gaining their respect by knowing what you're talking about and making the classes entertaining.
post #35 of 75

One of my favorite professors in college would wear Joy Division t-shirts and jeans. As a student, I thought it was cool. Being a clothing nerd, I also appreciated the tweed Ivy look of some of my other profs.

post #36 of 75
Oh my two favorite professors, one was a very seasoned teacher (a British professor...a coveted title in the UK). He wore jeans or corduroy trousers and a sportshirt/pullover sweater. The other, a tall, well-kept German in his early 30's wore very finely cut suits, although he never wore a tie and during his office hours, he'd have his cufflinks and watch off. He was "cool" without being a slob.
post #37 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by copperx View Post


I'm sorry, probably the fact that I'm posting into a style forum that I used to frequent as a graduate student might sound like I'm being superficial and not dedicating every single minute of my life to my new station in life. I totally understand that. The only defense to that accusation I have is that I like to dot my i's and cross my t's. Attention to detail does not have to be confined to your work. It's a way of looking at things; a curse, if you will.

I was just looking for opinions on what constitutes under- and over-dressing in the ivory tower. How well can I dress before I stop being taken seriously?

All this does not mean I will be preoccupied with my dress every day; on the contrary, I will 'set it and forget it', and wear the same style for a decade or more. I just need to worry about it once.

Wow I got quoted a lot. To be expected since I essentially insulted the very foundation of this forum. Quick summary of upcoming long post: You are new. Dressing professionally is expected. But if you try to dress well as a new professor, you look like an overconfident blowhard because your clothes will impress no one. Trust yourself on whats ok to wear, and don't trust the advice of a fashion forum.

As a graduate student (or any student that wants to succeed) you want to impress someone. Whether your supervisor, or professor for school, image matters. Once you enter the truly academic world, however, rules change. You're impressing no one and while you will get compliments every once in a while, you shouldn't be interacting with colleagues enough that it would matter (unlike a business or other professional setting). The fact that you're actually caring about what you're wearing shows immediately that you are overdressing. When professors, particularly new ones, think that they need something for a more formal setting, they think suit. Then they go back to thinking about something else. They don't think about color, or fit, or whatnot unless they're established and are allowed that "luxury". And when I say suit, I mean OTR from JC Penney. The fashion fan in you will almost automatically reject that idea, and thats the point im trying to bring up. ANY indication of attempting to dress to impress, even within that middle line you are trying to find, is outside of the norm of academia. The only people who give a crap about that are those seeking administrative roles and trying to make money, the natural enemy of the ideal academic.

Attention to detail is wasted on your clothing. Like people said, dress however it makes you feel. But by making this thread, you're asking what other people will think. This is the honest truth. Don't wear a tshirt and fitted cap and voila, you're already looking better than all the students who are busy being teens and not students. The rest of them know will respect you simply because of your position (and the dirty secret in academia is these students are the only ones you should really give a shit about). After that, you are not dressing for anyone else. As an established professor, no one cares at all if you decide to dress like a hippie or the pope himself. As a new professor, attention to your clothing gives off the image that you think that you're worth respecting without the work to prove it. Thats why I specifically said you should focus on your tenure. Plenty of people think they have it made when they get a faculty position, that that position is validation of their worth. It's not and established professors know that, even if new ones don't. Get tenure, then care about clothes. Worrying that you're dressing appropriately equates to dressing well which, compared to your colleagues, is overdressed. Buy an ugly suit, with a fat tie, shoes from Sears and put out a shitton of papers, and that will impress more than showing up daily in a tweed jacket without a paper to your name.

Trust your instincts of whats appropriate wear and don't go asking a fashion forum with a preference for the expensive and esoteric. Also, I'm serious about the students thing. Unless you're particularly strong willed, teaching will leave you jaded in a few years smile.gif
Edited by lanbexx - 8/17/11 at 1:32am
post #38 of 75
In my experience, first-year faculty have to figure out how to change "sides" from being a student to being a faculty member. This will be be even more dramatic when you are assigned to a search committee and interview candidates. Sometimes more formal dress can help with this transition. My junior colleagues also find that they have to figure out how establish some authority in the classroom. This is a bigger problem for women than for men, but many of my junior male colleagues use slightly more formal dress to this effect. For those who are young, it's also a crucial way of identifying oneself as "the professor" and not just another student. Think about what you want/need to accomplish in with colleagues and students.

In addition to all of the advice above about publishing, I would urge you to have coffee/lunch/a drink with each of your departmental colleagues. At that meeting, engage each one about his or her research.
post #39 of 75
This thread is not about how much time to devote to research. Clearly, publishing quality research is the main, perhaps only, pathway to tenure. The question is about how wide a range of clothing is acceptable before you look like an asshole, and whether more formal clothing sets you apart from students. In my own opinion, the answers are quite wide, and yes. When I taught classes as a grad student, i wore a jacket and that was enough to make it clear that I was the teacher and they were the students, and therefore should be worthy of some respect.
post #40 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by williamson View Post

Though I believe, very strongly, that "dressing up to teach" calls for a tie, I nonetheless think this to be excellent advice.

My first semester of teaching, I felt the same way, but 3-4 comments on my teaching evaluations said "Lose the tie". It seemed to me that I was coming across to my students as stuffy and unapproachable, so I adapted by omitting a tie. I've discovered over the years that I'm also naturally intimidating, so toning down my dress a little worked for me.
Quote:
Originally Posted by joelmccrea View Post

I'm in a similar boat as the OP. One thing I've noticed is that in my field and to some extent my department one can get away with dressing up some as long as the result does not looks remotely appropriate for the business world. Dandyish works well, and tweedy works OK.

There is a lot of wisdom hidden in this very short post. The trick in academics is no different than it is for teenagers--how do you fit in with your peers, but still maintain your individuality?
Look at how your colleagues dress, then dress like the best dressed 2-3 of them, but with better fit, quality, color-coordination, etc. Better shoes won't set you apart too much either.

Obviously, the way you dress won't earn the respect of your colleagues, but there is no reason you can't publish a "shit-ton", teach well, do your committee assignments, and thus earn your colleagues' respect, while also dressing well.
post #41 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by thinman View Post


My first semester of teaching, I felt the same way, but 3-4 comments on my teaching evaluations said "Lose the tie". It seemed to me that I was coming across to my students as stuffy and unapproachable, so I adapted by omitting a tie. I've discovered over the years that I'm also naturally intimidating, so toning down my dress a little worked for me.

This is a very important point. How your style of dress is received by others in an academic setting (colleagues and students) depends a lot on what kind of impression you tend to make on people. If you tend to come off as arrogant or self-important or ambitious, then dressing especially well might not be appreciated by colleagues. And as thinman said, if you come off as intimidating, it may not be received well by students. I wear a suit and tie every day, and I've gotten nothing but positive feedback from colleagues and students. Every semester I get comments on student evaluations telling me that they appreciate my dressing well; they take it as a signal that I take my job seriously and that I have respect for the class. But I tend to come off as gentle and kind (I think), so my clothing does not send the wrong signals.

As regards teaching, your standing in front of the classroom every day speaking authoritatively gives you lots of authority all by itself. As long as you project confidence, you should be fine even if you don't dress especially well. (I don't think this is quite true for young female professors, unfortunately.)
post #42 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by philosophe 
In my experience, first-year faculty have to figure out how to change "sides" from being a student to being a faculty member...Sometimes more formal dress can help with this transition. My junior colleagues also find that they have to figure out how establish some authority in the classroom...many of my junior male colleagues use slightly more formal dress to this effect. For those who are young, it's also a crucial way of identifying oneself as "the professor" and not just another student.
Very important points here!
Quote:
Originally Posted by thinman 
... 3-4 comments on my teaching evaluations said "Lose the tie". It seemed to me that I was coming across to my students as stuffy and unapproachable...
I find this unfortunate and amazing, but come from a British perspective (see a posting in this thread by umbelragazzo). However, what you say about your personality, rather than the tie, might account for this.
Quote:
Originally Posted by L'Incandescent 
I wear a suit and tie every day, and I've gotten nothing but positive feedback from colleagues and students. Every semester I get comments on student evaluations telling me that they appreciate my dressing well; they take it as a signal that I take my job seriously and that I have respect for the class. But I tend to come off as gentle and kind (I think), so my clothing does not send the wrong signals.
I'm glad to read this - what it says is the obverse of what thinman has written, perhaps!
Quote:
As regards teaching, your standing in front of the classroom every day speaking authoritatively gives you lots of authority all by itself. As long as you project confidence, you should be fine even if you don't dress especially well.
This is absolutely essential, but unless we have bags of self-confidence it's difficult to do at the start, and that, as has been said, is where comparatively formal clothing can help. But this raises the broader question - the effect of clothes on the wearer as well as on those who see him/her.
Edited by williamson - 8/18/11 at 4:52am
post #43 of 75
Quote:
Originally Posted by thinman View Post

Look at how your colleagues dress, then dress like the best dressed 2-3 of them, but with better fit, quality, color-coordination, etc. Better shoes won't set you apart too much either.

I think this is a great summary of some of the excellent points made in this thread. You want to look good without it being too conspicuous. I noticed, for instance, that when I seriously upgraded my shoe selection, people noticed and approved without finding it weird (which they would've if I had, say, started wearing suits every day). I certainly don't agree with lanbexx's assertions that how you dress doesn't matter at all for success. While obviously doing good research (and depending on where you are, teaching well) are the most important things, I think people (either consciously or unconsciously) appreciate it when someone puts effort into how they look.

As for specifics, I find the range of comments in this thread really interesting. My field (genomics) ranges from shorts & tevas to sport coat every day. While generally everyone agrees that the profs in the first category look like douchebags, nobody wears a suit, not even at big international meetings. A few decent sport coats go a long way without looking out of place, and I find adding a tie from time to time can work extremely well in the right circumstances.
post #44 of 75
In the U.S. it is highly dependent on location and discipline. In general I would say, based on my personal experience and observations. I'm in a science dept. in the SW U.S.:

Suits: Never

Sport coat with Tie: Rarely, but in some settings (see above) could be very common, but always for important meetings with administration. Probably very often if you are a department head.

Sport coat without tie: No problemo, this is turning into my normal "lecturing" mode of dress

Chinos or trousers with button-down oxford or dress shirt: common and safe, and will distinguish you from most students (who as far as I can tell mostly wear cargo shorts and flip flops). Add sweater in cooler months, roll up sleeves in warmer months

Short-sleeve polo shirts: These are common here in the SW U.S., but I don't usually wear them while lecturing.

Jeans: Never
Sneakers: Never
Shorts: Never

I echo the sentiments about no blue blazers/sport coats if you are using chalk!

Definitely upgrade the shoes! Longwings rule. Suede is awesome. Desert boots or chukkas also are highly versatile.

Just my 2 cents.
post #45 of 75
If you are after a good profile to be able to work at any university, you will have much publishing to do and networking to help with those citations (which are becoming as important as number of publications). Since you will be networking and attending conferences, you will want some decent shirts, shoes, and suits for these events. As for everyday attire when teaching, go with smart chinos, button down collar, no tie, and perhaps a sportcoat. On all other days, particularly when involved with PhD students or MA/MS students, dress as you please. Even for teaching dress as you please, although I always prefer to be well dressed when giving a lesson.
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