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The university where I work is staging its annual photograph update of faculty members. The photos will appear on the university website and in promotional materials.

Part of the notice about the photos said this: "Please dress appropriately, men preferably with a tie."

Really? Yes, really: Male faculty members need to be reminded that they should dress professionally when they are, in effect, a face of the institution.

I had an interesting email exchange with a member of the theology department a few weeks ago. The faculty email listserv was caught up in a discussion about enrollment, and I proposed that our image is hurt by too many male faculty members who dress as if they're taking trash to the landfill.

This guy unloaded a front-end loader full of academic elitism on me, pointing out that he had done his doctorate work at Yale (har-RUMPH kaff-kaff) and the professors he worked with didn't wear ties, and also, when he and his son visited a dozen or so major universities over the summer, the faculty members they spoke with didn't wear ties either.

Then came the line from another planet, as he suggested students might find it easier to work with professors who look—his word—"cool."

If this guy is an arbiter of cool, then I am the reincarnation of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 26th, 2014 02:33 am (UTC)
I've always been a firm believer in the "dress for success" idea. If you are at work, you should dress in work clothes. Would anyone take, say, the Pope seriously if he were wearing surfer shorts, a tank top, and a backwards baseball cap? If I went to a doctor's appointment and my doctor was wearing rumpled khakis and a golf shirt, that would say to me that his mind is on the golf course, not on my medical issue. My personal, old-fashioned belief is that there would be fewer discipline problems and more respect for authority in school if the teachers dressed more, oh I don't know, more formally, for lack of a better word. I can remember sitting in the parking lot outside the middle school and watching teachers arrive wearing capri pants and flip flops - hardly an image that conveys authority, that says "Listen to me." Wearing a tie sends a powerful message: "This is important." Wearing going-to-the-landfill clothing says "This is trash."
But, alas, this is most certainly a minority opinion. It seems that now every day is Casual Friday, everywhere. (Except at the Vatican.)
Oct. 26th, 2014 05:13 am (UTC)
I remember when Russ got promoted to engineer, the first thing he did was buy a bunch of white shirts. Butch Butchello was wearing Armani before anybody had heard of it. When I did the mailroom thing at Dresser, there were some sharp-dressed men I ran into every day. I admired the way those guys looked.

I work with people now who wear faded jeans to work. I wear jeans on occasional Fridays, but I make it a point to wear an Oxford button-down and a tie. (Most guys don't realize an Oxford cloth shirt or a shirt with a button-down collar isn't a dress shirt.)

Last Friday, though, there was a big event going on in our building, and I had a hunch I should dress well, maybe a little better than I usually do. When I pulled into the parking lot, someone was getting out of a car next to me. It was Sister Margaret. The first thing she did was compliment my attire. I was glad I had listened to that hunch.

Nov. 1st, 2014 04:57 am (UTC)
A few years ago while substituting at a middle school I did an experiment for two weeks I alternated dress down and shirt and tie. I had 70 % less disciplinary issues dressed up than dressed down. I commented to the Human Resouces administrator, who by the way dressed everyday in a professional way my findings. He told me that in his mind classroom authority statred with the perception that students know who is in charge.
Nov. 1st, 2014 06:40 pm (UTC)
I think many of my colleagues would say it's obvious that they're in charge. To my way of thinking, dressing professionally tells students you respect them enough to dress like you mean it. It's one thing to be perceived as being in charge, but it's a whole 'nother thang to be in charge and be respected.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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