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Dress in Academia - Page 22

post #316 of 339
Thread Starter 

While on the subject of the Chronicle, there’s an article in the 1/23/98 issue entitled “Frumpy or Chic? Tweed or Kente? Sometimes Clothes Make the Professor” which I find quite remarkable.  The complete article can be found here.

 

http://chronicle.com/article/Frumpy-or-Chic-Tweed-or/65194

 

Here’s how it opens.

 

There was just one problem with the English department's job candidate: his pants.

They were polyester, green polyester, and the members of the hiring committee considered that a serious offense. For 10 minutes they ranted about the cut, the color, the cloth. Then and only then did they move on to weightier matters.

He did not get the job.


Neither did a woman lugging an oversized tote bag (too working-class). Or a man sporting a jaunty sweater and scarf (too flaky). Or a woman in a red-taffeta dress and cowboy boots (too -- well, too much).

In the world of academe, where the life of the mind prevails, does it really matter if a scholar wears Gucci, gabardine, or grunge? What about good looks? Can such things tip the scales in a job interview, weaken a bid for tenure, or keep you off the A list on the conference circuit? Many professors say they can, although there is quibbling over the reasons why.”

 

What I find remarkable about this passage is the public admission that the author has served on search committees in which perceived errors of dress resulted in an applicant not getting the job.  Now, this was 1998, but I can’t imagine someone publishing such an admission today, especially given the unapologetically pejorative language used (‘too working class’, ‘too flaky’, etc.).  While there’s been lots of testimony in this thread about ways in which dress can matter, and appropriately so, to those who teach, this seems to me to be something else.   This seems narrow and more than a little bigoted.

 

Reflecting on the differences between 1998 and 2016, it seems to me that the various efforts to increase campus diversity which we’ve witnessed over the past decade (and which I applaud, by the way), while originally aimed mostly at racial and ethnic minorities, have had the interesting side-effect of altering the way we talk in public about departures from societal norms more generally.  Neither ‘slobs’ nor ‘dandies’ are protected classes, after all, but I think that each benefits from a university environment which at least pays lip service to the goal of diversity.

 

Of course the fact that we’ve changed the way we talk about others’ dress publicly doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve changed the way we think about it privately.

 

In any event it’s a revealing article.  Apart the opening discussion of search committee behavior there are a number of observations which are consistent with the discussion in this thread regarding the diversity of norms in the university today, e.g.:

 

“Clothes also help determine if someone will fit into a particular institution. Ask around, and you'll hear professors talk about regional norms for academics: The Midwest dresses down, the South dresses up. Tailored but casual wins the day in the Northeast, and anything goes in California -- as long as it looks good. Not to mention the fact that individual universities have their own idiosyncratic norms, which professors ignore at their peril.”

 

Cheers,

 

Ac

post #317 of 339
Quote:
Originally Posted by Academic2 View Post
 

Now, this was 1998, but I can’t imagine someone publishing such an admission today, especially given the unapologetically pejorative language used (‘too working class’, ‘too flaky’, etc.).  While 

 

On my present day Ivy League campus, a comment like 'too working class' could ruin a professor. 

post #318 of 339
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mosivy View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Academic2 View Post
 

Now, this was 1998, but I can’t imagine someone publishing such an admission today, especially given the unapologetically pejorative language used (‘too working class’, ‘too flaky’, etc.).  While 

 

On my present day Ivy League campus, a comment like 'too working class' could ruin a professor. 

 

Yep.

 

Cheers,

 

Ac

post #319 of 339

Just out of curiosity, are you saying it would ruin them if they said that phrase or it would ruin them if others were saying that phrase about them? I'm assuming the former, but in a perverse way, hoping for the latter.

post #320 of 339
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by WhereNext View Post
 

Just out of curiosity, are you saying it would ruin them if they said that phrase or it would ruin them if others were saying that phrase about them? I'm assuming the former, but in a perverse way, hoping for the latter.

 

Obviously I can’t speak for @mosivy , but I certainly read him as meaning the former—that anyone at his institution saying what the author said would be in trouble.  In any case, it was with that that I was agreeing.

 

Cheers,

 

Ac

 

 

 

post #321 of 339

@WhereNext 

 

Indeed, I meant the former, as @Academic2 read. 

post #322 of 339

I remain both relieved and disappointed.

In terms of clothing styles: one of my students, who has been in my class for about 10 hours, had a whole conversation with me the other day as a stranger, as she did not recognize me in my very casual clothes (as opposed to coat and tie in class). The realization on her face when she asked what I did at the School was quite hilarious.

post #323 of 339
Quote:
Originally Posted by Claghorn View Post

 

Also I know someone who chose his textbook on the basis of the attractiveness of the rep. McGraw-Hill won.

 

Things I can look forward to. Will provide feedback re attractiveness of pharma reps vs publishing reps

post #324 of 339

I admit to not having read through the full thread, but I wonder if any current students have chimed in, or whether opinions of such a person would be appreciated?

post #325 of 339
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by voltnaire View Post
 

I admit to not having read through the full thread, but I wonder if any current students have chimed in, or whether opinions of such a person would be appreciated?

 

Yes, a number of students have contributed, and all are welcome.

 

Cheers,

 

Ac

post #326 of 339
I am interested in student perspectives as well.

---

One of goals is to get a student to comment on my dress on ratemyprofessor. Clearly my priorities are unimpeachable.
post #327 of 339
"I don't care if you learn in my class, I just want you to think I dress well."
post #328 of 339
Quote:
Originally Posted by CBrown85 View Post

"I don't care if you learn in my class, I just want you to think I dress well."

I see you've read my syllabus.
post #329 of 339

On a different and relevant note, a student (who I think is my oldest student, in her late 20s) mentioned that she appreciates that I dress well for class and that it bugs her sometimes when professors don't make an effort to manage their appearance at all. I mention her age because I wonder if its a generational thing, that kids born in the 80s are really going to be the last to have those expecations of their professors. As an 80s kid myself, I didn't have those expecations of my professors, so chances are the prevalence of those expecations has been waning for a while.

post #330 of 339
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Claghorn View Post
 

On a different and relevant note, a student (who I think is my oldest student, in her late 20s) mentioned that she appreciates that I dress well for class and that it bugs her sometimes when professors don't make an effort to manage their appearance at all. I mention her age because I wonder if its a generational thing, that kids born in the 80s are really going to be the last to have those expecations of their professors. As an 80s kid myself, I didn't have those expecations of my professors, so chances are the prevalence of those expecations has been waning for a while.

 

I have to assume this is the case.

 

But it’s just a guess.   It’s frustrating for those of us with an interest in the psychology and sociology of dress that we have so little hard data to work with.  Other disciplines—political history, for instance—have decades of annual survey data through which they can track historical changes in attitude.  If there’s anything like that for men’s apparel I’m unaware of it.

 

 It would be nice if professional costume historians started surveying such attitudes, but in my experience they tend  (1) not to be interested until a certain amount of time has passed and thus not interested in documenting current states of affairs, and, (2) to be more interested in costume as a physical artifact rather than attitudes toward it.

 

Sigh.

 

Cheers

,

Ac

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