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Change in attire

Since today was

  1. The first working day after classes ended last week, and
  2. Warm and sunny in Pittsburgh,

I went to work in shorts and sandals. In honor of this, I would like to direct your attention to an article in Inside Higher Ed by Erik M. Jensen entitled “A Call for Professional Attire“. In the article, Jensen notes the standard sartorial choices of professors:

Professors, it’s been said, are the worst-dressed middle-class occupational group in America.

He offers a Uniform Uniform Code:

Faculty members shall, when on college grounds or on college business, dress in a way that would not embarrass their mothers, unless their mothers are under age 50 and are therefore likely to be immune to embarrassment from scruffy dressing, in which case faculty members shall dress in a way that would not embarrass my mother.

A response by the economist Brad Delong brings out how dress needs to change depending on the audience:

With math-oriented students, however, a tie tells them that I spend too little time thinking about isomorphisms.

For the record, when I teach MBAs, I teach the first class in a suit and tie. The second class, I take off the jacket half-way through. The third class, I take off the jacket immediately. The jacket is never to be seen again: I trust my students assume I take it off in my office, though it never leaves my closet. Later in the course, I might lose the tie for a couple of lectures if the course is going well; If the course is going poorly, I put on “power ties” of increasing power until I get the course going well again. When doing video teaching, I used to wear shorts with a shirt and tie, but the new system in place shows all of me, so I am back to wearing big-boy pants for all my classes. I only change the structure of my facial hair in the middle of a course if it is going so poorly that I need to subtly get across the idea of “new beginnings”. And I often wear shorts and am otherwise an embarrassment to my mother outside of teaching days.

{ 3 } Comments

  1. Tallys | May 6, 2008 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    What is a “power tie”, and what makes one have more power than the other?

  2. Michael Trick | May 6, 2008 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    See here for some commentary on power ties. Here is a quick guide:

    tie contains cartoon creatures: not power tie
    tie contains bold stripes: power tie
    tie contains advertisement for a beer: not power tie
    tie cost more than suit: power tie

  3. Aurelie | May 7, 2008 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Hilarious! I just love how you train your students. Well done!