“Jacket Trumps Jeans” is kaput…

I had written on a previous blog (now deleted) about the creation of “Jacket Trumps Jeans Thursday”; the post is reproduced here to give some background for today’s comments:

At every school I’ve ever taught (three, for those keeping track), the faculty dress code has stated that jeans are only to be worn on Fridays. Something about being professionals, yada yada yada. This means the other four days I’d be stuck wearing khakis and either a knit shirt or long sleeve button down, and most of the time here in Texas it’s too damn hot/humid to wear the long sleeve shirts, and even if I wear one it means that the shirt will have to be ironed before it gets worn again (I don’t actually iron – I take my shirts to the cleaners). Lately, though, I’ve been lazy: since I’ve accumulated enough staff shirts of a variety of colors, I’ve just been picking out a pair of khakis and one of the shirts and, voila, I’m set for work.

But dammit if that didn’t make me feel like a slacker. And my khaki pants were constantly getting worn out because I hate trying to match shirts with non-khaki colored pants, and I’m always confused as to what color shoes should be worn with navy slacks.

But then, a few years ago, my father-in-law gave me a tan corduroy jacket for Christmas (you know, the kind with patches on the elbows that your English professors in college wore). I loved it, but rarely wore it because 1) the heat and 2) I didn’t want to wear it with khaki pants – too much khaki color.

But it looks great with jeans.

So last year I occasionally wore the jacket with jeans on days other than Fridays. No one said a word, unless it was a compliment on how dashing the jacket made me look. This started the wheels a-spinning and some other teachers at the school would go for the same look (and they DID look dashing!).

This year, though, those same colleagues and I have made it official: we all (okay, there’s about 5 of us, but the group is growing) have decided to wear jackets with jeans on Thursdays, under the belief that the jacket makes up for the informality of the jeans, and anyone looking at us would only see the rakish and dashing figure in front of him/her and not the slacker in jeans bending the rules.

Jacket trumps jeans, people. Join us.

Now, however, the powers-that-be here at the school have redressed our dress, they’ve put the kibosh on our habberdashery, they’ve stilted our style.  In other words, they sent out a politely-worded email reminding the staff that jeans are to be worn on Fridays only (and other designated days).

I am a bit disappointed.

Yes, I know we were breaking the rules as they are stated in the faculty handbook:

Teachers are expected to dress in a professional manner. Friday is a designated spirit day where casual attire is appropriate.  Blue jeans and staff shirts are acceptable and the staff is encouraged to participate in school spirit days as well.

…though, honestly, the above is not the most precisely written bit of prohibition ever produced (yeah, I  like alliteration – and parenthetical comments).  The expectation of “professionalism” is there, but the explanation of “professional” is not.

So the principals’ email (and my subsequent complaining to the English department) eventually led me to send another email to my compadres on the English staff attempting to initiate a discussion of what the expectations are of “professional dress” here at the school.  Jeans, it appears, are considered unprofessional attire.  But then again, we’re allowed to wear them on Fridays with staff shirts.  So we’re willing to forego a little professionalism in favor of comfort at the end of the week.

We’ve also traditionally been allowed to wear jeans on any day we happen to be giving school-wide exams, whether they’re final exams or the  TAKS test or the PSAT. So we can sacrifice appearance while we’re sitting at our desks bored to te- er, excuse me, actively monitoring the potential cheaters.  Also, the school encourages donations to a wide variety of charities throughout the year by offering the opportunity to wear jeans for a minimal pledge.  I often donate the money without taking them up on the jeans opportunity (an AP prompt – Question 3 – back in 2007 led me to this practice).

Combine these unofficial policies with the school’s acceptance of wind-pants  as allowable classroom attire for coaches  (and I’m not saying coaches shouldn’t be allowed to wear such clothing; it would be a hassle to have to change clothes from one period to the next), and the handbook’s policy with regard to jeans is, in my opinion, questionable.

I suppose my real beef is the thought that jeans are inherently informal.  To illustrate, while in college I knew of professors who occasionally wore jeans while instructing their classes (many English instructors seem to be big believers of the “Jacket Trumps Jeans” idea, in fact).  Didn’t effect my learning.  Also, most Sundays I see men at church dressed in jeans, and the idea that it is improper never crosses my mind.  Probably not God’s, either.  I suppose one might argue that the parishioner is not in a leadership role (i.e., the pastor) and therefore it’s not the same, but I’d argue that the respective ethos (ethii?) of a pastor and teacher and the relationship between those leaders and their adherents is also not the same.  Whoa, digression.

Then again, maybe my real beef is that the policy is an unnecessary rule for adults who are professionals.  Can we not trust teachers to show some discernment in what they choose to wear in the classroom? And can we agree that the high school classroom is not the same arena as a law office, a doctor’s office, or even a paper supply company? The clothes we wear can affect our credibility; I understand this.  But I’m not arguing that we should be allowed to wear jeans willy-nilly.  I am arguing, however, that how we present ourselves to our students goes well beyond what type of pants we have on.

2 Responses to ““Jacket Trumps Jeans” is kaput…”

  1. 1. The clothes do NOT make the man; then again, I’m not in charge.
    2. “Wind Pants Wednesday” is starting to sound good.
    3. I think “ethii” is an excellent plural for “ethos,” although I don’t suspect I’ll have to use it any time soon.
    4. “You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

  2. I took some license with “haberdashery” – my M.A. allows me to do such things…

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