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November 28, 2013 4:14 PM   Subscribe

AcademicClothesFilter: MetaFilter, help me (20ish dude) find a store that sells awesome tweed or professorial-like sportscoats/jackets! I am a beginning academic who hates suits, but soon I will start to teach and go to conferences and will need to "look the part." Thus, I need to update my wardrobe with something thematically between "formal" and "wannabe hipster causal." The hitch is: I am sort-of built like a linebacker, with a very broad chest and very wide shoulders but with a not-quite-commensurately-large bottom torso, and thus sizing can often be an issue for me (i.e., getting more fabric "up top" in generic sizes ends up with billowing fabric down below). Is there any store that sells hot to trot professorial tweed that might fit someone with my body build? Or will I need to get a loose fit and then get it tailored? (Is that... what tailoring is?).
posted by Keter to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Sometimes you can find sportcoats in various tweeds and herringbones at Banana Republic that could pass as subtle academic, and you might be able to find a "trim" cut that won't be so boxy on the bottom.
posted by mathowie at 4:24 PM on November 28, 2013

Sorry, the term I was looking for was "tailored fit" on their sportcoats, like this search results page.
posted by mathowie at 4:25 PM on November 28, 2013

You're going to be teaching, not acting in a play. A charcoal suit and tie for conferences (if you are speaking), other than that you only really need a dress shirt for teaching (keep a tie in your office and you can put in on when ever necessary).
posted by 445supermag at 4:36 PM on November 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

Check out Old Town Clothing they have the drugs you are after in a range of fabrics. I recommend that you put at least one pinstripe suit into play.
posted by parmanparman at 4:38 PM on November 28, 2013

I would go to a store that offers tailoring. Then you can buy a jacket that has "more fabric 'up top'" and they can tailor the shoulders and torso so that it all looks proportional and appropriate. Also, I have bought several custom shirts from CottonWork that fit perfectly. For a professional, a suit and tie really isn't "formal," and I think that hipster-tweed would be too casual for most serious academic situations where you will want to impress.
posted by Nightman at 4:46 PM on November 28, 2013

I will echo 445supermag on this one. The only junior faculty members who dress in throwback tweeds and elbow patches are dweebs. You might as well start smoking a pipe and get a monocle (unless maybe you're in philosophy or teach in the humanities at a very conservative institution). Dress like people who got tenure in the last few years at your institution. The charcoal suit and dark narrow tie are a standard uniform. You need one good one for conferences and invited talks. A dark sportcoat or blazer over nice jeans or khakis for teaching if you're at a conservative institution, and a tie for teaching only if everyone around you wears one. If you dress like a professor from central casting you will look like you are trying too hard.
posted by spitbull at 4:46 PM on November 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

You have my build and my job! After getting sick of the billow, I stumped up a few hundred for a made-to-measure suit (445supermag is right, you don't need more than one, in a dark colour then rework with ties and shirts over the years) and once the measurements were taken, a mid-brown jacket. You don't need full bespoke - it's a very expensive way to feel looked after - just something that doesn't assume your are in a normal ergonomic category. I'm in the UK so I can't recommend anyone specific, but I seem to remember the business model is to measure on site, get a prefabricated carcass altered to fit in a cheaper country (mine was Hungarian, I think Mexico the most likely source in the US) then do final finishing back at the shop. Total cost was about twice what you'd pay off the peg in a good (but not stupidly pricey) department store, but I don't regret a penny.
posted by cromagnon at 4:51 PM on November 28, 2013

To clarify and then removing myself from threadsitting:
(1) I am not on faculty, but rather am a graduate student.

(2) Of course I'd wear a full suit on occasions where this is warranted (e.g., actual talk, swanky dinner, interview, etc; "wannabe hipster casual" is how I'd describe my day-to-day, and "suit and tie" or even just "suit" is honestly too formal for my field and my institution for day-to-day not-just-taking-classes work), ye internet of little faith. :)

(3) However, alterna-ideas for semi-formal garb beneath "suiting up" and above "casual whatever" are appreciated; I had thought a sportscoat of some kind in the tweed/twill/etc fashion-story might look nice based on several people's comments to that effect IRL about my appearance, but alas! It's only in recent years that I've developed any coherent sort of casual style, and I've yet to find my way for any other level of dress (apart from apparently finding the perfect dress shoes, thank the fashion gods). I did appreciate Cromagnon's idea about throwing down $$$ for a custom suit and derivative jackets, and looking toward charcoal or pinstripe.
posted by Keter at 5:09 PM on November 28, 2013

First of all, check your local academic culture. In some departments, dressing up is tacitly expected; in others, there's a range. Only one man in my department regularly comes in a full suit and tie. Most of them wear non-tweedy sports jackets, ties, a button-down shirt, and slacks, with a couple of them wearing extremely casual garb (e.g., jeans). Most people are aiming for some combination of professional and comfortable, bearing in mind that you need to move around a lot.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:38 PM on November 28, 2013

Re: well fitting suits, Suitsupply at 15th and Locust (as I see you're in Philly) is a good place to get well fitting but not outrageously expensive suits.

For a step above "hipster casual," I think, would be dark, well fitting jeans or chinos and a button down oxford shirt/sport shirt/polo... you may want to check out Brooks Brothers for shirts as they come in at least 3-4 different cuts (from extra slim to traditional/full cut). It's not going to be cheap but they tend to use finer, more durable fabrics & construction.
posted by scalespace at 5:48 PM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Absolutely don't buy anything until AFTER you get the job. Until you know where you're going---eg, Madison vs Miami---you won't know what folks in your university tend to wear.

Anything you buy now may end up a costly mistake.
posted by eisenkr at 8:32 PM on November 28, 2013

From my experience, grad students usually don't go in full suit attire for talks or conferences. Usually a suit jacket (somewhat decent fitting), a nice pair of slacks/trousers, and a well-ironed shirt with a tie or bow-tie doesn't go awry.

Don't shell out for a full bespoke suit yet. Pick up something that fits you decent, and then worry about getting a nice suit. I find that even full professors tend not to go in full suit to anything unless they absolutely have to, you can totally do with just a jacket, nice pants, and a shirt/tie. As for teaching in grad school, I never wore anything formal for teaching. Few people do.

I agree that you should wait to check out your local academic culture first, before committing to something that will cost you a lot of money. If you're just a grad student, for now, just get a standard suit at the standard place.
posted by the_wintry_mizzenmast at 3:21 AM on November 29, 2013

Contrary to comments upstream, I figure that if you are asking this question, you have an idea what sort of a sports coat/blazer would be appropriate. While it is quite fine to (eventually) buy a nice suit or somesuch for an interview or important meetings, a very common strategy is to go to consignment stores and pick up a few coats. Leave one in the office space so you can wear it to important talks, guest speakers, events-you-forgot-to-dress-up-for. Green Street (South Street has better selection than near Penn) and Sophisticated Seconds on 20th & Sansom have served me well, economically.
posted by zachxman at 7:14 AM on November 29, 2013

I am a (lady) grad student, and somewhat contrary to the advice above, I do think a nice tweed sport coat would be good for teaching, though agree that a suit is going too far. This obviously varies hugely by institution and matters most at the beginning of the semester, while you're still establishing authority, but it's helpful to dress in a way that immediately differentiates you from your students. This is especially true if you look young and if you'll be teaching your own course, rather than TAing. In my humanities department, almost everyone dresses up to teach, even if just a little bit. I start the year in blazers and dresses, even if I'm teaching in jeans and nice sweaters by the end. The extra bonus effect of this is that if you then dress down on days when you're not teaching, your students will sometimes not even recognize you when you walk around campus in jeans and a hoodie.
posted by dizziest at 8:58 AM on November 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

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