Wednesday, December 19, 2007

This is Your Wardrobe. This is Your Wardobe on Drugs.

A student of mine paid me quite the compliment today: "Dr. X., you always dress like a business woman when you come to class. How come the other faculty do not do this?" I was bowled over. First, because I always thought I wore rather average clothes. Second, because my students apparently are peering out from behind their laptops and paying attention to the front of the room. Third, because I had never noticed what my colleagues were wearing.

The comment made me think though, "Shouldn't all faculty endeavor to look as professional as we can when we come to class?" We faculty liberally complain about the pajama clad, flip-flops wearing students but, are we doing much better? Certainly few of us are wearing our nighties to lectures, yet are jeans, a T-shirt, and sandals that much better given our status in the classroom?

I do not propose that we should all wear academic regalia to classes (though this would make getting dressed for lectures much easier!). I do suggest that we ought to upgrade from "everyday is casual Friday" garb to business casual, at the very least. My own preference-- and maybe this is because I wish that everyone had the same dry-cleaning bill that I do-- is that we all wore suits. I do not believe this would stifle our academic freedom or our innate creativity. Far from it! There are so many variations of the classic suit, whether for men or women, that, at worst, we would look like a bunch of well-dressed, highly individuated, individuals. Indeed, wouldn't a spring green pant suit and classic loafers in pale pink, or a navy blue pin-stripe suit with a yellow holographic bow-tie make a much more interesting statement than jeans, Doc Marten's and a black turtle-neck? The worst that could happen is that students pay attention to us for non-academic reasons and write nasty comments about our fashion sense on their evaluations. But, they would have had to pay attention, and that is a start.

We have all heard that we should "dress for success" with the implication that by dressing ourselves well, we will be successful. Perhaps it is our task as educators to turn this about: we should dress ourselves well so that our students might see the representation of success and strive to imitate accordingly.