Field of Science

Alphabutt - Worst Academic Fashion Statement Ever

A colleague who shall remain nameless was bemoaning the lack of a dress code, the lower standards of acceptable attire, for both faculty and students. No question about it, times and attire have changed. I used to wear a tie, and sometimes a jacket, whenever I taught. But I haven't worn a tie in probably 10 years, and that's too bad because I used to have some great ties carefully chosen to mock professional attire. Unfortunately power ties became acceptable, even stylish, so my ties with loud colors and bold designs were seen as fashionable. When I switched from a steady diet of lecturing in large, introductory courses to smaller upper division classes, and I decided tropical print shirts were appropriate, and even themed them to discussion topics.

Students have always been pretty casual at the public schools that employed me, and for the longest time nothing there seemed to change. Jeans were the standard, but then the t-shirt, formerly underwear, became outerwear and a communications medium at the same time. I keep expecting to see a communications course on t-shirts; you literally take the shirt off your back for exams. Now even some faculty dress this way, and to keep themselves from being mistaken as faculty, students have descended to slovenly paradies of homeless derelicts. If a person in authority ever demanded that students dress such that their underwear was always hanging out of torn and tattered clothing, I can imagine the outcries of protest.

But the absolute worst fashion statement ever to appear is alphabutt. While letters and emblems have long adorned jackets and sweaters, this was mostly the style for jocks and cheerleaders. T-shirts not only lowered the bar, but lowered the location for emblazoning messages.

I will maintain that there are very few if any butts, even young ones, whose appearance is improved by displaying large words and letters. Most are limited to initials, often refering to the insitution, like the South Henrietta Insitute of Technology, or some obtuse reference to color, for example, PINK seems a favorite hue. People should be proud of their homes and institutions, and while OHIO isn't too bad, MICHIGAN suggests a healthier diet and more exercise is a good idea. Even more dismaying is the observation that alphabutt is far more popular with young women unless this points to a change in body conscious attitudes. But in a time when a careless look can be misinterpreted as a leer sending the recipient off to complain (to a jacket and tie) about sexual harassment, I can only say don't wear it if you don't want people to read it.

And to the young woman whose sweatpants read, in suitably small font, "If you can read this, you're looking at my butt.", one can only say, "well, yes, you have a great one."

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