The Academic’s Uniform?

Whilst chatting with a colleague at a recent meeting, she remarked upon the ‘academic’s uniform’. In her case, ripped jeans. At another meeting I overheard one colleague saying to another about his waistcoat and jeans (or maybe chinos), ‘I see you went with the academic uniform today’. For me, mostly, my academic uniform is a combination of trainers, jeans and tshirt, although if I am in a meeting, teaching or at a conference, I have a range of plaid shirts to choose from. I’ve even been known to wear proper shoes on occaison. But this got me to thinking about whether there is an academic uniform, and if it changes based on rank, age, and location.

A quick Google brought up these results (more or less the first 10 hits over 2 pages):

He was wearing a worn cardigan and gray slacks, the academic’s uniform

Dr. Pes wore the midcareer academic’s uniform of polo shirt, khakis, and rimless glasses

Professor Paul Maslowski, genial and welcoming in the American academic’s uniform of tweed jacket and leather patches

Huxley is the second image for ‘academic’s uniform’

Standing a gangly 6’4½” with an enormous head, he dressed almost exclusively in an academic’s uniform of baggy suits

his regular attire was a grey suit and colorful sneakers long before the latter became part of the academic’s uniform

Eventually, a woman of middle-age, sweet-faced and in the academic’s uniform of comfortable clogs and dangling earrings

he even wore the baggy grey flannels and ancient sports coat with leather elbows which are the academic’s uniform in the popular imagination

Jeffrey Gordon is tall and lean and wears the academic’s uniform of khakis and a button-down shirt

… linen suit and long-line heather cardigan, here we had what seemed a cheeky twist on the archetypal eccentric English Academic’s uniform

‘…who had the academic’s uniform of a big bushy beard and long hair and a slightly sleep-deprived wild look about him’

Worryingly, this is the first image to come up when searching for ‘academic’s uniform’…

The first two things that strike me is the idea that academics don’t particularly want to dress smart, but feel like they have to make an effort, with almost all of these descriptions hitting some kind of middle ground. The other is how male dominated this list is. The one description of an academic woman also mentions that she is ‘sweet faced’- not something you see in the male descriptions (the closest is ‘sleep-deprived wild look’). These extracts either seem to be from biographies/reference or fiction, but it seems in the popular consciousness, not many women are academics?

I’m saddened to see no inclusion of berets, roll-neck jumpers or ripped jeans. I’d better get myself a tweed jacket with leather patches… Do the above fit most academics, I wonder?


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