Life in Academia

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Professor Chaos, Jun 29, 2010.

  1. OttoSkadelig

    OttoSkadelig Senior member

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    One of the people quoted in the article says "if you look like you spend too much time on your clothes, there are people who will assume that you haven't put enough energy into your mind." That's just silly. You don't need to guess how much energy people put into their minds. You can just look at their CVs to find out how much they've been publishing and presenting. That's what you really want to know.

    but both points of view are right... it's the difference between first impressions and long-term impressions. many people WILL judge you to be a self-centered (at best) and possibly shallow or even odd (at worst) person if you are dressed in an over-the-top manner. it's the same dynamic that will cause many people to think that all bodybuilders are brainless meatheads, because if you're spending all of your time building your bi's there must be nothing left over for cultivating your brain, right? and it's the same dynamic that causes this board to advise job-seekers to show up in navy and charcoal suits. for better or worse, people do make snap judgments based on how you look.

    of course, time and more information are the great equalizers and will help build a more substantive and more nuanced impression, but not everyone will get that chance. as an academic, you probably will because that's the nature of your trade -- repeated encounters with a group of students over the business of ideas. not everyone is so fortunate... and if you have to, say, present at a conference or if you're interviewed on a TV show, people most assuredly will make snap judgments based on your dress. this is a well-known fact...
     
  2. Professor Chaos

    Professor Chaos Senior member

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    I'm a university professor (Philosophy). The article describes a world entirely different from the one I'm familiar with.

    One of the people quoted in the article says "if you look like you spend too much time on your clothes, there are people who will assume that you haven't put enough energy into your mind." That's just silly. You don't need to guess how much energy people put into their minds. You can just look at their CVs to find out how much they've been publishing and presenting. That's what you really want to know.

    Another person says "If you don't know how to dress, then what else don't you know? Do you know how to advise students or grade papers? The clothes are part of the judgment of the mind." If I tried really hard to formulate the dumbest sentence I could think of, I wouldn't get close to the stupidity of this one.

    When people go on the job market for the first time, there's often very little to differentiate them. In my field, most people's CVs will have a couple of top-tier publications, a few second and third tier, and a handful of presentations (most people heading into top schools, that is. Including lower-ranked schools, I would say most probably have no pubs when they defend their dissertations).

    CVs aren't a great signal of research ability until post-tenure, IMO. What does that leave you with?
     
  3. Professor Chaos

    Professor Chaos Senior member

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    As a student I have to say that how my professor dresses plays a large role in my overall opinion of them, I tend to respect the professors that at least dress decently much more than the ones who obviously look like they just don't care. A big factor in my initial sartorial reaction to a new professor generally involves sizing up the quality and probable cost of their ensemble and then measuring it against my own ensemble, if I decide that I am better dressed I generally have a lesser opinion of the professor from day one, when i find a professor dressed nearer to my dressing standards or at least leaps ahead of the majority of professors. I generally assume that if the individual does not have the means or the motivation to dress at least respectably then they most likely wont be able to impart to me any potentially beneficial knowledge. I can also tell you that 99% of a student body doesn't care/ doesn't posses the experience necessary to properly discern a well dressed professor from the 'professor' in a fused jacket 2 sizes too large with non-polished rubber soled wal-mart shoes and faded out jeans from the 80's. I would say that it is a minority of students that is heavily influenced by clothing.
    Another observation the college of business and economics consistently displays the best dressed professors of any of the colleges on campus.

    This sort of attitude is astoundingly common in business school. I know a researcher who is a super-star, and is a chaired professor at one of the best buiness schools in the world, even though he's only in his mid 30s. He told me that one day, a student in one of his executive MBA classes came up to him to give him a heads up about his shoes. He told him that all of the students were noticing the cheap quality of his shoes, and that they didn't respect him as a result. When he teaches EMBA classes now, he's sure to wear $500 shoes, even though he doesn't care at all about what shoes he wears the rest of the time.
     
  4. mjc

    mjc Senior member

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    I had a computer science prof who ALWAYS wore light blue pants and a grey sweater.

    The lecture hall was painted light blue, and the chalkboard was light grey.

    When he stood in front of the chalkboard, he simply vanished. Which was fine by me.

    - Mike
     
  5. Bull

    Bull Senior member

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    My Islamic Studies professor in college, John Voll, wore a Harris Tweed coat every day with an OCBD and simple tie (often a regimental). He looked fantastic - classic professor look. Never out of style, always appropriate: http://explore.georgetown.edu/people/vollj/
     
  6. Bull

    Bull Senior member

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    p.s. Note that he goes "buttons undone" on his OCBD...sprezzatura! I didn't notice this in college. Nice look. Knot could be better though.
     
  7. BBC

    BBC Senior member

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    I'm a professor in the humanities at a southern US private university. I wear a coat and tie everyday and a suit about half the time - about 1/2 of the male colleagues in my department also wear a jacket and tie. Generally speaking, the students seem to appreciate my effort to "dress well" as do some of the other professors. Not infrequently, students will make positive comments about my clothing on their evaluations. That said, the standards of dress at my school are a little higher than most - odd jackets are not unusual on the men, the frat guys like to wear bows when they have to wear ties, lots of the women wear dresses and heels. That said, when I taught in the Pacific Northwest I would never have worn a suit or a tie and only wore odd jackets.

    When I was on the job market, I just wore a navy or charcoal suit to interviews.
     
  8. vincerich

    vincerich Senior member

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    Butters!
     
  9. OttoSkadelig

    OttoSkadelig Senior member

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    This sort of attitude is astoundingly common in business school. I know a researcher who is a super-star, and is a chaired professor at one of the best buiness schools in the world, even though he's only in his mid 30s. He told me that one day, a student in one of his executive MBA classes came up to him to give him a heads up about his shoes. He told him that all of the students were noticing the cheap quality of his shoes, and that they didn't respect him as a result. When he teaches EMBA classes now, he's sure to wear $500 shoes, even though he doesn't care at all about what shoes he wears the rest of the time.

    how sad.

    more evidence of how so many b-schools are becoming increasingly shallow trade schools vs. true institutions of learning.... and attracting a clientele with commensurate goals.

    i do hope that such attitudes are more prevalent in exec MBA programs vs. regular MBA programs. if not, i'd say people have their priorities a bit confused.
     
  10. Makeshift_Robot

    Makeshift_Robot Senior member

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    As a student, I judge professors by what they have to say. Dressing well doesn't matter if you don't know your material, and dressing poorly can be endearing when the poor dresser is a great teacher.

    That said, I tend to think of professors as being more interesting or well-rounded if they dress well. I had a physics professor who wore a sportcoat or an elegant cardigan every day, and I took him more seriously than my math professor who wore weird pullovers and khaki trousers every day, just because he clearly had an eye for things beyond his subject.
     
  11. Makeshift_Robot

    Makeshift_Robot Senior member

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    more evidence of how so many b-schools are becoming increasingly shallow trade schools vs. true institutions of learning.... and attracting a clientele with commensurate goals.

    Agreed. My school has a really good engineering program, but it's a very commercial school as a result. You pay for your year of classes, they inject the necessary knowledge into you, and then you get your degree so you can go make 90k a year. It's pretty awful, the commercialism is the second-biggest reason I'm transferring.
     
  12. lasbar

    lasbar Senior member

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    When i was a history student in Paris ,dressing up was seen as an original sin...

    You were suspected of being a petit bourgeois,shallow and narrow-minded...

    As I barely went there because I was too busy chasing skirts ,I didn't really care at all and I was still wearing my JM Weston loafers with sporcoats...

    I went after that to a business school and dressing down or too casual suddenly became problematic...

    I didn't change an iota and that was the best lesson I have learned in my student years...

    Be yourself.
     
  13. Professor Chaos

    Professor Chaos Senior member

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    When i was a history student in Paris ,dressing up was seen as an original sin...

    You were suspected of being a petit bourgeois,shallow and narrow-minded...

    As I barely went there because I was too busy chasing skirts ,I didn't really care at all and I was still wearing my JM Weston loafers with sporcoats...

    I went after that to a business school and dressing down or too casual suddenly became problematic...

    I didn't change an iota and that was the best lesson I have learned in my student years...

    Be yourself.

    As a student, your work is often graded blind, and typically by someone who has never met you. You can wear a toiletpaper suit if you want, and no one will care. As a professor, your salary is determined in part by your teaching ratings, which are influenced by how students feel about you. Your hiring and promotion decisions are determined by your peers, and how they feel about you. There's just much more possibility for clothing-related bias to enter the picture, and it's consequences are much more serious.
     
  14. Publius

    Publius Active Member

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    I found this article interesting. I'm a young history professor, and I am fastidious about my appearance. I frequently teach in slim, tailored suits, and I believe it has helped my career. As I said, I'm young and I look even younger, so I think it is important to differentiate myself from my students. I've also noticed that everyone knows my name. Some people might shy away from this because it means you cannot hide behind shoddy work, but I view it as an opportunity (call me an optimist).

    "If you look like you spend too much time on your clothes, there are people who will assume that you haven't put enough energy into your mind."

    Really? How limiting. Must professors be one-dimensional? Is it necessary to limit our interests and self-expression? I try to integrate my interest in history and fashion, and I don’t see these as mutually exclusive.

    “If you don't know how to dress, then what else don't you know? Do you know how to advise students or grade papers? The clothes are part of the judgment of the mind.”

    My message to this simpleton: if you make such sweeping judgments about me based my clothes and not my abilities, then this reveals more about your mental capacity than mine.
     
  15. Professor Chaos

    Professor Chaos Senior member

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    "If you don't know how to dress, then what else don't you know? Do you know how to advise students or grade papers? The clothes are part of the judgment of the mind."

    My message to this simpleton: if you make such sweeping judgments about me based my clothes and not my abilities, then this reveals more about your mental capacity than mine.


    But if that simpleton is your department head, or a student evaluating your teaching, what do you do?
     

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