Philadelphia is going through a horrendous heat wave at the moment. Highs in the lower 90s, lows in the 60s. Summer weather, in other words, which is all fine and dandy if one doesn't have to look presentable five days a week in front of judgmental undergraduates. (Except for the ones who read this blog; I'm sure you're not judgmental. But your friends are.)
Most of the calendar year I love the costume of the male academic. The tweed, the argyle, the sweater vests (haven't gone there yet myself, but oh, I will), the ubiquitous elbow patch. One of my professors in graduate school once told me that back in the early radical days of New Musicology, he and his colleagues made an effort to dress somewhat stylishly, as a marker of difference against the old guard. I can appreciate that strategy, but as a member of Generation Y to their Generation X (or a "Millenial Musicologist," as Ryan would say), I personally embrace the quirkiness of all tweed, all the time. If I had the money, that is; good academic clothes don't come cheap, and I'm slowly building up the appropriate wardrobe.
On the other side of things, we all know that it has historically been difficult for women academics to find the right balance in their dress of projecting academic authority without looking like Meg Whitman. All joking aside, unlike the male professor who can just roll out of bed and don tweed, a woman runs the risk of fairly severe consequences for her career if the wrong choice is made. (See judgmental students, above.) But if there is one thing I envy about women's academic clothing, it's that it is much more flexible when it comes to temperature. Because as the thermometer climbs here in Philly, I've begun to dread the walk from my car to the music building. There just simply aren't many good ways to look like a professor without becoming a sweaty mess.
This is about to become particularly fraught as I've taken a job for next year at the College of William and Mary. It's a visiting assistant professor job, a one-year sabbatical replacement, and I'm thrilled about it. Not only is it actual full-time employment with benefits and a humane teaching load, but W&M has a long tradition of American music research that I will be honored to be part of. So as I say, I'm thrilled.
But...it's also in Southern Virginia. And I struggle enough to keep myself un-sweaty up here in Philadelphia. Five and a half hours south, and it's going to be grim.
Any words of advice? How does one maintain academic garb in the south? A former professor of mine in Los Angeles owned a white linen suit, but I can't really pull that off. Shorts are obviously out; I think it is written somewhere in the faculty handbook that a male professor's knees should never be seen. Short sleeves and a tie? Pretty soon I'd look like I worked for NASA in the 1960s. What to do?
5 days ago