How to dress when visiting a military college?
January 19, 2010 9:07 AM   Subscribe

What is the dress code for civilian faculty at military institutions (like West Point, USAFA, etc)? To what extent does this apply to visitors?

I ask because I'm visiting a colleague to work on a joint project, and I am afraid that my usual casual mode of dress won't cut it. I do hope it will, but I can hope, right?
posted by xoran99 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
To be safe, why not ask your colleague or just dress really well the first day, and then see how others are dressed and go from there?
posted by elder18 at 9:15 AM on January 19, 2010

Best answer: We have a pretty wide variety on base here. Most people are business casual, some wear suits. Ties are not unheard of, but I don't wear one personally. The engineers here tend to dress more casually than people with other jobs. Jeans on Fridays are pretty common.

The military folks generally don't wear their blues, either. Fatigues are much more common.

Is it too much of a hassle to bring a suit? My general strategy when I'm visiting a new site and I don't know the dress code is to dress more formally the first day (probably a suit) and then adjust based on what I observe on that first day.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:17 AM on January 19, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses. I suppose I could ask my colleague, but I'm trying not to overload her with questions :)

Judging from backseatpilot's response, I suppose business-casual will be the order of the day. Wearing a suit would probably be overboard, since such a thing is almost never done in my branch of academia, but I suppose dressing like a Ph.D. student would not be an appropriate path :)
posted by xoran99 at 9:28 AM on January 19, 2010

I'd ask your colleague about this.

On the one hand, unless you're giving a talk while you're there, or hope to get a job at a service academy, or somehow do research that's connected to the military, then you're a tourist and within wide bounds you're a tourist/guest and your dress is irrelevant. Unless those circumstances apply, then even in the worst reasonable case -- you meet Col/Cmdr Uptight who gets pissy about you not wearing a tie or something -- it won't affect your life in the slightest. Presumably if your colleague knew that not wearing a coat and tie would piss off Col Uptight and reflect badly on her, she'd have mentioned this already.

But, your colleague may intend (if this is permitted) to take you to lunch/dinner at a campus facility that does have an active dress code, so I'd ask.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:43 AM on January 19, 2010

I spend one day a week at West Point, but I am not among the cadets. I work with a mix of civilian contractors, officers and a few cadets (during meetings).

The general dress code is business casual, no tie required. If you are presenting to top-ranking officers, for instance, you should dress in a suit -- no different than you'd dress if you were presenting to a CEO of a company.

When I am at West Point, I usually wear dark cotton slacks, black shoes, and a nice polo shirt, which is a bit more casual than how other contractors dress but it's fine for the office I spend time in.
posted by camworld at 9:48 AM on January 19, 2010

Are you presenting or giving a talk? Wear a suit.
Are you visiting other faculty you don't know? A suit is a good idea.
Are you just meeting in their office with maybe a few grad students then going for lunch? Business casual is fine.
posted by bonehead at 11:03 AM on January 19, 2010

Reaffirming what others have said, business casual will work unless it is a particular important event. Even if you dress down, you can just pretend to be a civilian contractor - usually the guy that is way out of shape, sloppy goatee or ponytail, and wearing tennis shoes and slacks (since many of them were prior military everyone figures after a few decades on shaving and uniforms they can get away with it)
posted by aggienfo at 7:32 PM on January 19, 2010

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