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College Success 101: Keeping Up Appearances

In this article, Dr. David Wyld, who has been a business professor for over two decades, shares tips and tricks that college students should know in order to maximize your grade in any course. This article is actually part of a series, written to provide students with an overview of what it takes to succeed in college classes, whether the setting is a “real” classroom or a virtual one. In this article, Professor Wyld comments on the state of dress on college campuses today – and what the current standards may mean for students in their future careers.


You remember the phrase, “Dress for Success”? Well, times have changed – significantly – since the dawn of that phrase with the publication of the best-selling book of the same name by John T. Molloy in 1975. Mr. Malloy would likely not recognize the world of the college classroom today. Indeed, he would likely surmise that he had been transported to an alternate universe inhabited by extremely casual people and more often than not, they are pierced and/or tattooed! Needless to say, in 1975, Mr. Malloy didn’t have chapters addressing those subjects!

The Business Casual World – Redefined

More and more, we do live in a “business casual” world.  Much has been made in the popular media about how markedly our standards of dress have changed over the years. And the change from the “business attire” standard to the idea of “business casual” has led to a great deal of confusion. Indeed, when the standard of attire across offices was uniform – a suit – be it for a man or a woman – that was an easy, readily identifiable benchmark. This standard made it easy to shop – and to dress – for the rituals of daily work-life and even for special occasions. A suit was a suit, just maybe varying a great deal in price and quality. The same can be said for dress shirts and ties for men and blouses and skirts for women.

But today, the definition of “casual” can be very different from person-to-person, from company-to-company, and from situation-to-situation. What is “too” casual – maybe even to the point of being inappropriate? When can you be “over-dressed,” and not “fit-in” to the situation?  Yes, the “old” standard of business dress was more expensive and more uncomfortable to wear and function in, but it had its merits. However, as the expression goes, the ship has sailed, and we are increasingly dealing with a much more casual – some would argue too casual – world of dress.

Dressing in College Today

The college classroom is one such situation where the standard of dress can be quite confusing. And yes, after two decades of experience in the university setting – teaching and working with thousands of students during that time, I can safely say that today’s college environment is probably the most confusing state of affairs a student could encounter from the perspective of asking the simple question, “How should I dress for class?”

Not to sound like the grumpy middle-aged man, but….I do believe that the standards may have fallen just a bit too low from my perspective. What we see today from the front of the classroom is markedly different that 5-10 years ago, and while I personally do believe that we must all change with the times, my warning to students – and their parents – on the matter of dress is that I have colleagues who definitely have NOT changed their outlook on student appearance and dress. That is why I think this topic is so critically important for students, as you will encounter professors who will judge the book by the cover and make judgments about you – and your lifestyle – that could be brought to bear on how they grade your assignments, your presentations, and in essence, you. And this is not to say that this is necessarily an experience you will encounter that is isolated to the college classroom, as in the wider sphere of life, people – often people with power over us in one way or another – a boss, an interviewer, a prospective employer, and heck, even a prospective date – make such snap-judgements about us all the time. And yes, they may be 1000% wrong, but once the judgement is made for good or for bad – this person is a “winner” – will be a “success” – is someone I want to “work with” or even “be with” – it is very hard to reverse.

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User Comments
  1. smokychristine

    On January 21, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    It’s been longer than the time span you asked for since I have been in a classroom as either a student or a teacher (high school) what I can comment on though is how we used to wear skirts and hosiery to class. When I taught I always dressed in skirts and heels even in the mid ’90s. I guess the crew today would call us repressed. I do feel that when we dress well, we feel better about ourselves and produce better.

  2. The Elements

    On January 22, 2013 at 12:39 am

    nice article. it is so true that time is changing. esp the young ones. this generation are into something new and we cannot blame them for making a trend.

  3. The Elements

    On January 22, 2013 at 12:40 am

    nice article. it is so true that time is changing. esp the young ones. this generation are into something new and we cannot blame them for making a trend.

  4. new entry

    On January 22, 2013 at 2:28 am

    nice post

  5. Jswana

    On January 22, 2013 at 3:48 am

    You’re really on to something here. :) Thanks for sharing.

  6. kirti

    On January 22, 2013 at 4:37 am

    Nice share.

  7. kirti

    On January 22, 2013 at 4:38 am

    Nice share.

  8. tonywriter

    On January 22, 2013 at 4:48 am

    good share nice write :)

  9. caesar27

    On January 23, 2013 at 2:40 am

    very interesting post .thanks for share

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