Thursday, November 10, 2011

Zoot suit riot

I had dinner with a friend last night. She remarked that in the time we were hanging out, she could have ran a half marathon (Thank you Drake’s all-you-can-eat dining experience. Food should be social!) We talked about everything and anything, including one of my more cocky moments…

When I was in 9th grade I needed a suit for a career class job shadow. I was going to be shadowing a State Senator, and thus found myself needing a suit. I remember my father and the salesman telling me about which button options I had and a whole slew of other French sounding terms. I picked a three piece. After I picked it my dad looked at me and said “sometimes, always, never.” This was the way to button my options, to maintain the look of professionalism.

When I got slightly older, I became a big fan of two button blazers. There is something about the fit that just brings out confidence in me. The rule with these buttons was “Always, Never.” One never buttons the bottom on a two buttoned blazer, it just looks wrong.

I had a very young professor a few weeks back demonstrate how to give our final presentations. He had come in wearing a new suit. He mentioned that he got the suit for his job interviews coming up at a big state university in Ohio. He is just an adjunct here, and was picked up as the original professor took very sick right before the semester started. I like him, and think he will do great. There is limited chance he will go fulltime at Drake, and his dream school is in Ohio.

He made a big deal about making sure we look professional in our presentations. His suit was pressed and sharp. He stood up to give the presentation and immediately buttoned both of the buttons on his two button jacket. I cringed. I do not consider myself a slave to fashion at all (in fact I complain about people wearing topsiders who have never been topside.) However this was a sin against basic male dressing, something I felt might damage his chances of getting the job.

After class got out I waited around to pack up. We walked down to the main floor where there is a large glass entryway. The glass was immaculately clean, and reflective. I asked if I could speak to him in private and motioned to the glass. He said absolutely with a concerned look on his face, asking me if everything was okay. (I am the only non-major in this specific class and struggle with some of the material.)

I said I was fine, but I wanted to show him something. I asked him to put on his jacket and button it as he did in the class. Then I requested him to point, as if he was repeating something he had said in the presentation. He did, and I said “you see how that looks really awkward?” He wholeheartedly agreed, and so I told him how to fix it by only having one of his buttons used. That immediately made the suit fit better and he looked more relaxed.

My dinner date and I go back in forth about whether it is appropriate to tell a professor they are dressed wrong. Normally I do not care how professors dress (and almost all of mine have tenure.) This professor was just starting out, and was about to have one of the most important interviews of his life. I am a senior, full of way too much confidence, and therefore saw no qualms with pulling him aside privately. Had I done it in the middle of the class, in front of my peers, the results would have been horrific for saving face (and possibly my grade.)

This is the culture we have at Drake. We help each other out. Generally it is the professors helping us out, but every once in awhile, after developing a large amount of confidence through the Drake experience, we students look out for ours profs.

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