Dress in Academia

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Academic2, Jul 23, 2015.

  1. Academic2

    Academic2 Senior member

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    Perhaps. I think it’s also possible that, say, fifty years ago suits were more commonly worn by faculty too, but that the subsequent trend toward increasing informality has had a greater impact on faculty than on administrators.

    Cheers,

    Ac
     


  2. Caustic Man

    Caustic Man Senior member

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    Indeed this is a contradictory statement when held against your prior claims. It supports my suggestion that fields, like individual jobs, dictate dress more than an academic environment does. The wild assertion that I am saying that academics must have unique motivators notwithstanding, unique commonalities are what defines subcultures in the first place. The subculture exists in the field, not in the academy.
     


  3. heldentenor

    heldentenor Senior member

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    What's funny is that of all the folks in this thread, TweedyProf probably resembles a (better executed) composite of the stereotypical academic, and he's not, IIRC, in a dusty book discipline.
     


  4. Claghorn

    Claghorn Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I think the remarkable (as in, it is worth remarking upon) thing about academia is its lack of clothing norms. More so in this field than in any other field. In part because the value of intelligence/knowledge/research is so salient that many of the more social considerations in a workplace are pushed into the background, in part because prominent stereotypes in academia have eroded certain clothing standards, and in part because academia might not even be a proper field and more of an amalgamation of fields, or at least of a specific aspect of fields. I don't know; would someone consider a finance professor to be in the field of finance?
     


  5. Academic2

    Academic2 Senior member

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    As I suggested upthread, I suspect that in some measure the 'stereotype' owes more to film and other media than to anything which has actually been seen on campuses in the last thirty or forty years, in the U.S. at least.

    In decades of association with universities both public and private I remember seeing precisely one bow tie, for example, and that was on a university president.

    Cheers,

    Ac
     


  6. FlyingMonkey

    FlyingMonkey Senior member

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    If you've seen pictures of me here in a bow-tie, that will make two for your collection!

    From the more formal and British:
    [​IMG]

    To the more #menswear:
    [​IMG]

    But I wear bow-ties relatively infrequently, I will admit...

    I am a national research chair in a top Canadian university. I previously worked in a Russell Group university in the UK and I've also worked in Japan. I am absolutely the only man in my current reserch centre and department who wears jacket and tie. But then I also wear odd Japanese stuff when I feel like it. The head of a program with which I'm involved regularly wears bow-ties and Paul Smith sort of suits but that is about as interesting as it gets amongst faculty. Senior academic managers here tend to wear suits but of the crappy business variety, with bad shoes. Canada is in general very casual. There were more suits and ties in my British university, but the quality wasn't much better. In both the UK and Canada the women make more effort. In Japan, there was a combination of CBD and Ivy-influenced dress, and male professors were a lot more smartly turned out.
     


  7. crdb

    crdb Senior member

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    The supervisor whose dress I most remember always wore a navy DB blazer with gold buttons, always unbuttoned, with a light blue shirt and grey trousers. He did however wear black tie for our annual formal hall. I remember the blazer because virtually nobody else wore it, except for sport-related occasions like garden parties. I mildly associate the blazer with Americans and a peculiar kind of British arriviste but in his case he wore it impeccably somehow, which fitted nicely in his 500 year old room.

    The rest, and students, were considerably more relaxed but as engineers, dress was never really a priority, dressing well might even have been a negative signal in the lab. Some fellow students took to tweed which is admirably appropriate considering the average weather conditions in Cambridgeshire and state of heating in most colleges and departments. Profs and the more senior of the tenureless-for-now always wore the standard British business "casual" of suit trousers and shirt. I was glad for frequent formal halls which provided a socially acceptable occasion to wear a tie.

    The lawyers were most definitely the sharpest dressed, regardless of the formality of the occasion, including for graduation.

    I recommend any current Cambridge residents check the Salvation Army store periodically as there are occasionally nice tweed pieces going for a tenner. Local tastes...
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2015


  8. Caustic Man

    Caustic Man Senior member

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    This is actually an interesting point. I think it is articulated far better than previous by some others. I agree that academia is not a field really, but an amalgamation. I disagree, however, on the idea that it is the way it is partly because of an emphasis on intelligence/knowledge/research. The emphasis on I/K/R was already there when dress codes or emphasis on dress was common. I would suggest that the variation in dress has more to do with the emphasis on diversity in recent decades.
     


  9. orfane

    orfane Senior member

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    I agree, but I think the other post has a good point as well - once you reach a certain level (National Academy, Nobel Laureate, Field's Medal) no one gives a shit what you dress like. And I think that trickles down to some degree as well. In my experience (again, anecdotal) an adjunct dresses more professionally than a assistant professor, who is more professional than a tenured professor, all of whom are less professional than anyone in administration or who is "face" of a department, (either a Chair or someone dealing with human subjects). So I think I/K/R is maybe less of an emphasis than success, however you want to quantify that.
     


  10. Academic2

    Academic2 Senior member

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    Agreed.

    To some extent professional recognition, like tenure, confers the right to dress as one likes. For a majority of people in the US that means more casually (though I suspect that for some of us in this thread it might mean the opposite). In this respect I think the university is simply reflecting changes which have taken place in American work culture over the last half century or so.

    Cheers,

    Ac
     


  11. Academic2

    Academic2 Senior member

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  12. Claghorn

    Claghorn Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    ^ The point I was going to make.

    Due to the emphasis on I/K/R, academia is able to more strongly manifest those changes.
     


  13. dopey

    dopey Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I would like to remind people, especially our colleagues burdened by the norms of knowledge-based disciplines, that focus on I/K is a microagression. I hope I don't need to post the UCLA guidelines for you, but I will if i have to. I think R is still safe, so long as the focus is on quantity and results.
     


  14. FlyingMonkey

    FlyingMonkey Senior member

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    Yes, I'd say so. Which is very much reflective of the wider culture in each place. Although I would probably have to say Japan > UK > Ontario, because I know that both Canada and the USA vary a lot from coast to coast.

    This is with the caveat (already observed by others) that in individual and disciplinary terms, there are wide variations. For example, my main collaborator in Japan, who is a Sociology professor in his late 40s, tends to wear a battered leather jacket, black skinny jeans, old-skool sneakers, thick-rimmed glasses and obscure band T-shirts, and another who is in Computer Ethics wears the Silicon Valley uniform of polo shirt, chinos and cheap shoes. My previous department in the UK was an Architecture and Planning school, and only a few exceptions, the Architecture professors (male and female) wore the uniform of modern architects (or at least architectural theorists) everywhere: black turtlenecks and black suits. The Planning academics were much more mixed as they came from a wide variety of different academic and professional backgrounds.

    My general feeling is that even where there are national, disciplinary and associated professional cultural norms, academia provides for a far wider spectrum of opportunities for self-expression in clothing than most professions. However, ironically, the vast majority of academics care even less than most people about clothing and generally don't take advantage of the freedom that they have in this area.

    Personally, the way I dress is a mixture of reasons: 1. I like good clothes and enjoy them for myself and for the (appreciative) reactions of others; 2. I can (finally) afford them; 3. I look younger than I am and want to look like a professor not a student; and 4. I've always been an activist and a non-conformist and dressing interestingly, however you do it, is a small and enjoyable act of everyday rebellion against mediocrity and hierarchy (and yes, before someone says it, every non-conformist is a conformist of some other kind of confirmity). I also bring my interest in style into the classroom and teach some classes on fashion and style as part of the course in Urban Studies that I lead, including dressing appropriately when I'm discussing C19th Paris, 1920s/30s New York, 1990s Tokyo and contemporary Rio.
     


  15. Caustic Man

    Caustic Man Senior member

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    This may well be true, however my own anecdotal experience runs counter to yours. Perhaps it's a generational thing but many of the best dressed people I know are the oldest and most senior. On the other hand, a senior administrator I know dresses like he is going to the field every day. Probably a symptom of being an archeologist! I do think you have a good point about the emphasis on learning and academic achievement, as does Clags. However I think it is wise to be careful. Otherwise it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that academics dress so poorly most of the time because "we value intellect, dammit!". It breeds a group of people who toss out fallacy warnings instead of clarifying their points for the benefit of discussion. Egos on parade.
     


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