Project Runway on Bravo has made Tim Gunn a celebrity. And that seems to be a reason for the Chronicle of Higher Education to interview him! Well, never mind, he is fun. And here are some fun bits:
Q You are a fashionable academic, which some might say is an oxymoron. As an insider, can you tell us what’s up with all the tweed in academe, and are elbow patches really ever in style?
A: I will say this: I believe if one is dressed neatly, and the clothes fit properly, and they’re well groomed, I think one can pull off any look. And I think that elbow patches, tweed, Henry Higgins sartorial look can be really dashing, if done right.
But for so many people in the academic world at large, I really believe that disdain for fashion is something that they are quite proud of, and that they want to demonstrate in what they’re wearing and how they’re wearing it. It’s a kind of an intellectual snobbery that says: My brain is important to me, and how I look is not, because it goes beyond the clothes. They’re poorly groomed, they’re schlumped over and practically drooling. I mean, I’m making some exaggerations here, but when I go to meetings with the rest of Parsons, I look around and think: Just comb your hair!
And just in case you think he’s just talking about the guys:
As another design field, I’ll use architects as an example. For the most part I really like the way men dress; it’s really minimalist. It’s that Helmut Lang, Jil Sander kind of look. But then there’s the grooming aspect. That’s when I want to say, Cut your nose hairs! It’s so distracting, it’s like, OK, yeah, the clothes work, but nothing else about this does. Women architects, of which we have a lot around Parsons, I mean, they all look like Jane Hathaway in The Beverly Hillbillies.
Q: Why do you think academics are so poorly dressed?
A: …within the design arena, let alone the wider academic world, fashion really is the F word. There’s this unwillingness to engage in any kind of fashion dialogue. It’s beneath them.
Q: But there must be some professors who are doing a good job. I mean, who would make your best-dressed list?
A: You can say you then heard deafening silence. …
When I think about people who teach and look great, they tend to be public figures who have another life but also teach. It’s not at all about, You have to wear this, you have to wear that. That’s why I say you can have the tweed jacket and the elbow patches and look great. It’s also about caring about having a personal style. I don’t know why we all don’t. I would think that you’d want to care.
Q: What are the classic mistakes professors make?
A: The grooming aspect for me is big, and it’s usually the hair. Everyone benefits from a good haircut. There’s this sort of woven-around-your-head rat’s nest that people do that goes back to: I’d rather read another chapter in this book than comb my hair and pin it up. I mean, we get it. But it would be nice to think you can do all of the above.
Thanks to the Philosophy Job Market Blog for the fun break.
Of course, another explanation might be this: too many of us academics simply cannot conceive of how we look to others. Might have something to do with lacking a full conception of other minds… :)