Dress Smart: dapperQ Academics

Inspired by “Black Dandies Fashion New Academic Identities,” our new series “Dress Smart” will be featuring masculine-of-center genderqueer and transmasculine dapperQ professionals and academics who, through their personal style, are fearlessly challenging traditional expectations about gender and sexuality.

“‘Stylin’ out.’ That’s how Monica L. Miller, an associate professor of English at Barnard College, describes the way black people have used dress to expand definitions of blackness, gender, and sexuality. Men in particular have “styled their way from slaves to dignified human beings,” she writes in Slaves to Fashion (Duke University Press, 2009). The first book-length study of black dandyism, Miller’s work is part of a growing scholarly interest in how clothes fashion our lives. It also signals the blossoming of black dandyism—fedoras, silk ascots, flashy socks—on the streets of major cities. Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Outkast’s Andre 3000 have made it cool to rap in Polo shirts, bow ties, nerd glasses, and boat shoes. The NBA’s LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Kevin Durant pull off dandyish without being pretentious. And now black dandyism is trending in the halls of academe.” – Stacy Patton via Black Dandies Fashion New Academic Identities.
In our sixth installment of “Dress Smart,” we’re showcasing the dapper stylings of 26-year-old Jess, a PhD candidate studying public health with a focus on health equity in the US, especially on using public policy to improve the health of the most vulnerable populations in the nation:

Outfit details: “The Assistant”
Sweater: Express
Tie: American Eagle
Shirt: Calvin Klein
Jeans: Levis
Shoes: Vans
Watch: Anne Klein

This is an outfit I like to wear to class in my role as a Teaching Assistant. When I’m acting as a TA, I like to dress well, but not too business-like. This kind of outfit allows me to confidently straddle the line between student and professor. I like my students to respect me as a fellow student, but I also like to dress this way to differentiate myself from students taking the course without overshadowing the professor leading the class. I like to wear solid colors and add a touch of color either through my tie, my socks, or, as in this case, both!

Overall, I would describe my look as simple dapper. I like clean lines and shirts and pants with subtle patterns. It is difficult to find men’s collared shirts that fit me properly; either they fit well in the shoulders but are too narrow for my hips and loose around the torso, or fit nicely everywhere else except for the shoulders. I can sometimes get lucky with men’s shirts from H&M and I have recently discovered that I can fit clothes from the boys’ section there. Calvin Klein slim fit boys shirts also work for me.

I am lucky that I go to a university that has incredible diversity in gender identities and acceptance of those identities. This makes my masculine expression easier; I get more comments based on how my ties look than queries about why I am wearing a tie.

Outfit details: “The Professor”
Blazer: Thrifted
Shirt: The Limited
Jeans: Express
Watch: Fossil
Shoes: Frye

This is an outfit typically worn when I am presenting or leading a class at school. I found the blazer at a thrift store and as I put it on, I imagined myself in a library surrounded by leather armchairs and intellectuals trading jabs between puffs on their tobacco pipes. I understand that clothing do not make a person, but looking good when standing in front of an audience means I can focus on delivering the material without worrying about how I look. Everything in this outfit, except for the jeans, are considered “women’s” clothing. Just because I identify as masculine-of-center doesn’t mean that I am only relegated to buying “men’s” clothing. Fit is of the utmost importance to me when selecting clothes. If something fits well and complements your style, it doesn’t matter which section it came from!

Outfit details: “Office Hours”
Sweater: H&M
Jeans: Express
Shoes: Converse
Watch: Timex

There are times that I need to meet with students to discuss course-related material or to serve as a peer advisor. I like to appear approachable during these meetings and I use clothing to create a casual and comfortable environment. This is one of my favorite sweaters because of the colors. I got the sweater from the boys’ section of H&M, which is one of my favorite places to shop because of the sales and the way the boys’ clothes fit me.

Outfit details: “Casual Lecturing”
Cardigan: Tommy Hilfiger
Shirt: The Limited
Tie: Thrifted
Khakis: American Eagle
Watch: Fossil

I am a fan of Tommy Hilfiger women’s sweaters. I often have problems with women’s sweaters, particularly v-necks that cut too low for my liking. I find that Tommy Hilfiger sweaters fit me well while allowing me to maintain my masculine presentation. I feel the same way about collared shirts from The Limited. The tricky thing about buying women’s collared shirts is that it is often difficult to find collared shirts that button all the way up. When I do find shirts (and pants) that fit well without compromising my identity, I tend to buy multiple.

Fossil watches are a staple in my wardrobe. The same goes for Vans and Converse shoes. They have gender-neutral styles at affordable prices, especially at the outlet mall not far from where I live. These are also relatively easy to find at places like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s.

Outfit details: “Fridays”
Shirt: Arizona by JCPenney
Tie: American Eagle
Jeans: Express
Watch: Skagen

This is a more relaxed look for my Fridays. I usually work from home or in the library on Fridays. This means a less fitted collared shirt, jeans, and a casual tie. Being comfortable doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice my style.

Outfit details: “Reception”
Shirt: Brooks Brothers
Slacks: New York & Company
Shoes: Anne Klein

There are often receptions held after hours where faculty, students, and administrators mingle. Depending on the vibe, I like to attend these events with a more relaxed, yet professional, look, so I often leave the blazer in the office or at home.

I sometimes struggle with finding slacks that fit me well and that aren’t too feminine. I have men’s slacks from Uniqlo that I like to wear especially because of the straight cut, but men’s slacks are often too tight in the hips. It is hard to find similar slacks in the women’s section because these pants are too wide in the legs because they are made for women wearing heels. I compromised by buying women’s pants that fit me well in the hips and getting the legs taken in by a neighborhood tailor for a straight cut. I’ve also tailored hand-me-down suits generously donated to me by my mom. New York & Company and Anne Taylor slacks work well for me if I get them tailored. Take advantage of friends who sew or your neighborhood tailor, especially if you find good clothes at the thrift shop.
There are a few women’s collared shirts that aren’t too feminine that I like to wear. Brooks Brothers tailored fit collared shirts tend to fit me well. They are wide enough in the shoulders and narrow enough that my shirt doesn’t billow out too much. They are expensive, but they are made of quality material and will last a long time, so it’s worth the investment even on a grad student budget.
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  • As a fellow academic, I love and would wear every single one of these outfits. Is there any way to get a little more detail on items? For instance “Shoes: Frye”. Which Frye shoes? I usually try to google the items and see if they come in my sizes/price range, but it would be easier to do so with a bit more info. Thank you!

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