Let's not kid around — even if you're a math teacher, you don't want to look like a math teacher.
So what are your options as an educator when it comes to style?
There is no rule that says teacher's can't dress sharp. In fact, by keeping your style clean and professional, a well-dressed teacher will actually project a stronger aura of authority and leadership.
Why Dressing Up Matters In The Classroom
“Dressing up” is a pretty loose term for most teachers.
Public school dress codes tend to fall solidly in the realm of “dress casual,” and even stricter private schools rarely require the formality of business suits every day.
Even a jacket may not be explicitly required at many institutions.
A professional educator should always dress beyond the default minimum of a dress shirt and slacks.
Because a well-dressed man commands more visual authority than one dressed down.
Clothing like a sport jacket emphasizes healthy masculine traits such as height and upper body strength.
As humans we sub-consciously defer to those who give off strong leadership traits — at least until we are conditioned not to!
So although you can't rely on the appearance of authority for an extended period, displaying it sets the tone early in a relationship and it is easier to maintain than trying to recover from a poor/weak first impression.
Any experienced teacher knows that unspoken authority is the best kind — a jacket makes no threats and offers no incentives, but still prompts a more respectful attitude from a classroom.
Students are not, of course, the only people you're sending a message to.
Administrators and fellow teachers are always worth making a good impression on, as they are as human as anyone and are influenced by appearance as well.
We are unconsciously judging and being judged based of looks.
A well put-together man inspires a more optimistic evaluation than one dressing to minimum standards with minimum effort.
The Teacher's Core Wardrobe
Teachers fall into an odd sartorial niche — they need to appear authoritative without seeming straight-laced, old-fashioned, or worse like they are trying to be fashionable.
In addition, a teacher's salary does not cover the cost of an extensive new wardrobe.
As such you'll see us advocate an interchangeable wardrobe – one that utilizes less pieces of quality, multipurpose clothing as the core to build around.
A classic sport jacket or two are indispensable.
These can be worn over shirts with and without a tie, over turtlenecks and sweaters, and even over vests for an unusual twist on casual menswear.
A few cable-knit sweaters are likewise invaluable for anyone in a winter climate.
The rest of the wardrobe should rely on neutral-colored slacks and dress shirts of varying formality, all of which can be mixed and matched to multiple effects.
Below are some starting suggestions for male teachers – these are just the basics, and can and should be expanded upon.
Colors will certainly vary with taste and complexion, but flexible colors like charcoal gray, navy blue, and brown are always good centerpieces of a teacher's wardrobe.
Wardrobe Essentials For Teachers
1-2 suits (ideally in a soft, comfortable weave)
1+ pairs dress shoes (black Oxfords for the first pair)
2+ pairs casual leather shoes (bluchers and/or loafers)
belts to match each pair of shoes
5-10 dress shirts (more shirts means more mix-and-match options- button downs are great choices)
3-5 classic ties
1+ sport coats (more if you're heavy/thin/short – learn why a jacket helps men look more masculine)
5+ pairs differently-colored dress trousers (including both light and dark options)
2+ pairs jeans, preferably deep indigo or black
3-5 sweaters or vests depending on where you live
2-3 solid-color polo shirts or short-sleeve dress shirts (more if you live in a hot climate)
10 V-neck undershirts
10 pairs comfortable undershorts (briefs or boxer-briefs may be needed with close-fitted trousers)
10 pairs dress socks (matched to the color of your trousers – try to have at least two pairs per pair of pants)
1 simple, leather- or metal band dress watch