Dress for school however you please

Photo by Azat Bayandin / The Peak

Written by: Zach Siddiqui, Copy Editor

As Miranda Priestly told her dismissive new assistant in The Devil Wears Prada, it’s comical how people think they can stay out of the fashion world when they have no choice but to wear its fruits every day. Like it or not, clothes are a social cornerstone.

However, cornerstone though they might be, the rules governing what to wear and when to wear it shouldn’t control you. We’ve handed down and refitted the rules, customs, and expectations of fashion for generations — and for even longer than that, rules have been meant to be broken.

So as useful a tool as fashion might be, I’m here to tell you that just as there are times to observe textile decorum for your own good, there are also times to disregard that crap and do what you consider comfortable. Going to school is one of those times.

From hypercritical elderly folks to innocent lifestyle bloggers, from fashion-related corporations to other Peak writers here at SFU, it’s like everyone’s got an opinion on what you should wear to your classes or whatever other engagements you have at your college or university. But who cares if you wear slides and sandals to lecture? Who cares if you carry a $400 handbag to tutorial? Let’s talk about why forcing everyone to stick to strict scripts of visual style is superbly misguided.

Some of us just have bigger things to stress about

I paid about $2,300 for my three classes this semester, I’m under pressure to perform well in all three, and the fact that half of them start at 8:30 or 9:30 a.m. means that I’ve been a less-than-ideal student since the beginning of the semester as I continue to readjust to early morning existence. On top of doing my course readings, I fact-check and edit about 20–30 articles a week at my job, keep my friends socially satisfied, oh, and I also have to work on getting my compulsive spending problem under control, which probably won’t happen because it’s a by-product of my attempts to use material commodities as replacements for the love which my inner demons regularly try to convince me I don’t receive from myself or others . . .

No, I don’t have time to care what I put on in the morning.

I do care, and make time, because damn these particular inner demons, but I don’t blame anyone who can’t be bothered. We’re busy. Move on. Try a Pumpkin Scone.

Your prof probably doesn’t care what you wear . . . and if they do, what the hell?

Is your professor here to be your friend, your romantic prospect, or your What Not to Wear Stacy/Clinton figure? Nope! I’m pretty sure they’re here to teach you, or lecture at you or something — whatever. Therefore, seeing as how many of them will never learn your name or even your astrology signs, they certainly have no reason to care what clothes you put on your back as long as you do, in fact, put something there.

Any professor who does allow themselves, their conduct, or their grading to be influenced by what a student wears should keep in mind what they’ve been paid to do. We shouldn’t normalize such standards, because . . .

Unwritten dress codes normalize academia as a class gateway

While it’s certainly possible to dress well on a budget, as a general trend, dressing better means spending more on your closet. Not everyone is in a position to do that. When we expect people to dress a certain way for class, we let economic class influence us in a setting where all that should matter is people’s brains.

Snobbishness in academia is not a new phenomenon, and it comes up over stupid things: things like “she’s a girl in a mathematics class”, or “they lecture with ‘way too thick’ of an accent.” It certainly occurs with clothing, too, and that sort of prejudice is even intersectional in a bad way. One study reports that college students are more likely to consider fellow students thuggish or dangerous if they happened to be Black students wearing hoodies.

Many students can’t even get into post-secondary education in the first place because of the associated costs, which in turn means they won’t be able to get the credentials to one day earn a proper salary at a suitable job. If we let what we wear be something we’re judged on, we further the othering of some students while others receive yet another extra, should-be-irrelevant edge.

Luckily, clothes are something people are starting to relax about. It seems like these days, students are more likely to be judged for dressing up than dressing down, like when British law student Paula Ursu was mocked by classmates for wearing nice clothes and heels to lecture. Racked, a fashion blog affiliated with Vox Media, reports that even employers are starting to calm down about clothing, as they’ve noticed the current workforce generation works better in more casual settings.

On the other hand, if you do want to dress cute for school . . . Good! Love yourself!

As I wrap this up, I want to make it clear that I’m certainly not saying you can’t dress well for school. Like I said before, while I don’t think people should be expected to dress any type of standardized way for class, I expect myself to do so sometimes. As much of a pain as it is, it does make me feel pretty nice about myself!

So if clothes accomplish that for you too, then go for it. Even if they are super expensive. It’s not pretentious, unless you’re trying to be pretentious about it, and if you are, then you’ll do that without or without your pricey outfits.

So go on. Put on whatever you want. You get to decide whether or not you care — not anyone else.