Every morning at 6 a.m., two hours before my Monday, Wednesday, Friday class and three hours before I start work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, my alarm jolts me awake. Unlike some girls or guys, I don’t use those two or three hours on my appearance. I generally pick out my clothes the night before and expect to pull my hair into a ponytail. Getting ready takes a maximum of 10 minutes every morning, yet I think I look prepared for the day.
Jeans, a hoodie, a T-shirt and sneakers make up my normal outfit. Some days, I take a few extra minutes to dress up for work or just because I feel like doing so on a particular day. Even still, getting ready takes up less than 20 minutes of any morning for me. I don’t dress to impress anyone nor necessarily “for success.” I wear what feels comfortable and what is versatile enough to make it from class to work to afternoons doing homework or spending time with friends. I don’t think that choosing to dress in this way is any more or less respectful to my professors or fellow students than any other manner of dress.
It is my personal preference to wear jeans, dress pants or a skirt instead of sweatpants for a few reasons, none of which include trying to be more respectful. The most important reason is that I can’t learn, especially at 8 a.m., when I am as comfortable as I am in sweatpants. They make me want to curl up in bed and take a nap, not solve math problems. The second reason is I dress to feel good about myself; I don’t feel I look my best in my favorite sweatpants. However, I know that several of my friends feel more comfortable in sweatpants, so they choose to wear them. When it comes right down to it, one’s choice of clothes is always a personal preference. While clothes can be used as a statement, it is rare that anyone would find wearing sweatpants to be a statement meant to be terribly disrespectful.
In the same way that I don’t find a woman’s shirt tied up to expose her midriff disrespectful to the people she comes in contact with, I don’t think sweatpants are an affront to one’s professors. I think they are unflattering and not conducive to retaining information, but one’s choice of sweats over jeans rarely has anything to do with one’s interest in class or feelings towards a professor.
If a student expressed that wearing sweatpants to class was her way of showing disdain for the professor, subject matter or the way the class is taught, then it would be a problem. But I also highly doubt that many college students would come to the conclusion, “if I wear sweatpants to class, my professor will get the message.” I feel that most professors, being used to seeing students swathed in sweats for a gym class, going to the gym or because it was cold outside when she left for class, would not be surprised or angry.
There are exceptions to every rule, though. If one is going to a class in which formal dress is a factor of the grade, then sweatpants probably don’t fit the bill. Even in this case, I feel that dressing down is less likely to be an act of disrespect than a case of running late for class. Business and education are the two majors most people imagine when one is discussing dressing up for class. Despite knowing that students in those fields will be expected to dress up daily, professors only require business attire for certain classes or days. They acknowledge that we are students whose budgets probably don’t support an entirely professional wardrobe. We stay up late and wake up late regularly in order to finish everything required of us.
So, I feel that if you choose to wear sweatpants, wear them. Be comfortable and warm, especially now that leaving for 8 a.m. classes means leaving one’s building in 40 degree weather. Don’t dress down with malicious intent. Most importantly, acknowledge the privilege, because other colleges still enforce strict dress codes in the name of order.