Thursday, August 25, 2005

PrawfsBlawg: Prawfs in Jeans?

Ethan Leib at PrawfsBlawg has asked a surprisingly hot question: "I'm sick of wearing sportcoats to look professorial on the days I teach. Anyone think it's totally inappropriate to wear jeans?" Some of the comments:

"Well, I guess it's relevant to consult what other profs are wearing. At my school, I haven't seen anyone wear jeans, although I too wish I could, along with a comfortable pair of sneakers. At UCLA Law, there was a prof who wore (and--last time I saw him during the summer--still wears) sandals, and there was an associate dean who always wore jeans and hightops. So I guess it depends on what your school's culture deems suitable...."

"Isn't it most professorial to wear a sportcoat and jeans? Who else would do that?"

"I hate to be unduly precise, and mean this with love, but I don't think you've earned that "ergo" yet. Syllogistically, I think you took a wrong turn somwhere and ended up at "All men are Socrates." True, lawyers (if they are wise) wear suits to court -- but not all lawyers go to court, and even many trial lawyers go to court only occasionally. Many people (if they are wise, and have the means) wear suits to court. Robert Blake did; so did Scott Peterson. Ergo, it is at least possible you are training your students to be criminal defendants.
Ethan, I wear a jacket on my first class without fail and reasonably often thereafter, but typically rock the jacketless business casuals or pseudo-quasi-hip-but-dressy outfits. And I look great."

"I think the answer to this question depends to a large extent on gender. I don't think that many femprofs would wear jeans in class on a regular basis, if at all."

"I think age/race/gender (particularly age) can play a part in the dress code question as well. A number of the older professors at my school seem to eschew suits or suit jackets, regardless of their race or gender. Perhaps with the gray hair they no longer have to worry about establishing their authority in the classroom. Being young-looking and not stereotypically professorial looking, i.e,. a white male, I have been advised to wear a suit to class regardless of any dress code standards at the school."

"If the goal is to train students to wear suits, perhaps the students should be required to wear suits, and the professor should be dressed ridiculously, to train the students to deal with juries and witnesses."

I think the gender issue weighs heavily in law librarian dress, particularly when teaching in the classroom. I once worked at a law school with a "casual Friday" policy, meaning that everyone was expected to wear a suit, or at least a coat and tie, the rest of the week. I still wore a suit for a while when I started at UB, but then decided--partly for my own comfort, partly to set the sort of tone I wanted at the Law Library--to dress more casually. But then Buffalo is a pretty blue-collar town anyway.

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