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Volume 1, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 2050-0726
  • E-ISSN: 2050-0734



Suits and suit-like jackets are clothing signifiers in our culture, denoting professionalism, seriousness of purpose and formality. The suit jacket is the standard for male formal wear in both social and professional settings: a suit is de rigeur for a man attending both his daughter’s wedding and a meeting with his Board of Directors. The more status, income and power connected to his job, the more likely he is to wear a suit jacket (hence the term, ‘power suit’). The most powerful men in an organization may be (somewhat derisively) referred to as the ‘suits’. Precisely because the jacket is so laden with social meaning, it is not unambiguously welcomed in the world of academia. To the extent a jacket is associated with traits such as power and conformity to a masculinist norm, it eschews the traits of intimacy, informality, creativity and femininity. We have been engaged in a research project on faculty clothing choices, involving extensive interviews with over sixty faculty members. We found that female professors understand the meanings associated with the jacket and thus take a variety of stances towards wearing this garment. Some don it regularly to project an image of masculinized authority, some completely reject it for much the same reasons, and many pull it on and take it off as they shift between the various demands of their jobs. In this article we examine the latent meaning of the suit jacket and the various responses it provokes among female faculty members.


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