Read Kevin Maillard’s post at Blackprof here. Been there. Been there so often I wrote about it too (see page 19), but not nearly as engagingly.
Well, I certainly don’t “look like a law professor.” Not only have my colleagues (the tenured ones of course) so commented over the years but on two occasions my attire has been negatively commented upon in my annual decanal review (once actually in writing).
I teach in jeans and a comfortable shirt, a turtleneck in the winter, short sleeve sports shirts in warmer weather. I am the only male on my faculty who so disports himself.
What affect does this have? For one, a minority of students make assumptions about my politics and values based on the simple fact that I hate dressing “like a lawyer.” On the very rare occasions when it’s necessary to don a suit at school, I am harassed by whistles and catcalls from students from one end of the hall to the other (and to be frank predominantly from women students) while colleagues simply gravely ask whose funeral I just attended.
I’ve often told students that should they adopt a dress code that comports with general professional standards I’ll comply (I’ve been a litigator for over three decades and, of course, I dress appropriately when representing a client). No one seems eager to take me up on that.
I think the situation would be different for a female colleague where very informal dress in the classroom would spark more comment. Still, as I noted when working at a major law firm, women have te ability to wear far more comfortable clothes than men and still be sartorially mainstream. But then it’s probably true that most of my male colleagues don’t feel discomfort in a suit and tie any more than a habitual arrestee notices the cuffs on his wrists.
Well, I’m not a professor, but an adjunct instructor at a community college. Still, having spent most of my worklife outside of the academic world in labor-intensive jobs, with the longest stint in construction as a finish carpenter, I never adopted any specific dress norms associated with the teaching profession (jeans, cords, or other casual slacks, with button down shirts that I iron myself). And, it seems, I look more the carpenter (whatever that is) than the teacher, as several of my neighbors, among others, expressed no small amount of astonishment upon learning that I was a teacher at the nearby community college (perhaps it’s because they see me doing landscape maintenance at our condo. assoc. on the weekends). *One* reason for my choice of attire is that I frequently ride a bike to school. I do not own a tie or a suit and at our community college it is not expected that one should dress so formally in any case. In fact, I think I dress better than a few of my colleauges, especially the ones who wear shorts and t-shirt attire (the school is just up the hill from the beach, still, even I think that such attire better for off-campus activities). I think there should be some basic norms for dress attire in a profession such as ours, but such norms can be fairly flexible, and might vary a bit across the status conscious academic world. I thus suspect that if I was a law prof. I would dress a tad better than I do now, although my earing and facial hair would probably put me closer to Kevin Maillard than some of his colleagues.
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