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Summarize This Case, Professor: Slacks v. Suits

The blawgosphere is replete with posts about how lawyers should or shouldn't dress. But where's the guidance for a law professor in need of advice on appropriate attire? Professor Bennett Capers took matters into his own hands at PrawfsBlawg, asking readers what he should wear on the first day of class:

Given the importance of this first impression, am I the only one that obsesses at the start of the school year about what to wear on the first day of class, down to what color tie to wear? And I'm curious. Given that professors who don't naturally look professorial -- I think you know what I mean -- often have to do extra work to command respect and authority, is it mostly those professors who worry about clothing and first impressions? (In the extreme, are we the ones that take Rogers v. American Airlines and Jespersen v. Harrah's Operating Co. personally, and keep Dress for Success and its targeted variations in the back of our minds?) And here’s my final question. I'm still relatively young, and I don’t like trousers with elastic waistbands. As I get older, will I succumb and actually find elastic waistband trousers appealing? Not that I have anything against waistband trousers ...

Reader responses varied. One commenter said that he wears suits (albeit, without a tie) "to make clear how seriously I take the endeavor, and also to try to distinguish myself from the students." Another commenter agreed that appearance should matter for law professors:

I don't mean to sound harsh, but I don't think it shows any degree of nobility to ignore one's appearance in favor of a sole focus on scholarly pursuits. I think it's possible -- and preferable -- to demonstrate a degree of effort in both. Also, this can be done on a budget and with minimal effort.

Still another commenter writes that she's given up formal dress in the classroom. She says she feels she's a better teacher now because she has incorporated her personality, "clothing and all, into the classroom."

How did your law professors dress? Did it have any impact on your educational experience? I don't even remember those details about mine. I think they were all fairly non-descript, but maybe I just wasn't paying as close attention as some law students do these days.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on August 21, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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