Nikki’s Inbox: What can male teachers wear?

Greetings Nikki! I’ve been entertaining myself with your answers and they’re quite good. I’m enjoying your inputs and they really help me try out different combinations and see what works with me. I want to ask you about fashion for teachers. I’m a teacher by trade or soon will be, and I don’t really have any ideas or anything to look up when dealing with this style. I’m 5’6, thin, between anorexic and chubby. Thanks!

Neil, 19/New York City

I’m so glad you find my answers entertaining and helpful, Neil! Congratulations on your chosen career, too! Teaching is one of the hardest yet most rewarding jobs on the planet and I’m sure you’re going to have a fun time sitting on the other side of the classroom for a change.

Not the Kid on the Block
Neil, since you’ll be a newly minted teacher, there’s a chance that you might get mistaken as a student (if 6th graders now look like 20 year-olds) and that is something you don’t want to happen. Your goal is to look and act distinguished so your students, their parents and your co-teachers will take you seriously in your new role.

However, you also want to look hip, young and cool on campus. Unless the school has a strict dress code, you don’t have to stick with chinos, sweater vests and bow ties all the time. Here’s a rundown on what you need to upgrade in your closet.

Go for dark, not black!
Your skinny/ripped/faded jeans will be relegated to weekend wear. If you were also thinking that black trousers are okay, you’re correct – but only if you’re attending a black-tie affair or waiting tables at said event. Your new staple should be dark-rinse jeans and dark-colored trousers in a well-fitted, straight-leg cut. You can alternate these throughout the week to give variety to your outfits.

Go for button-down shirts!
Save the graphic tees, sports jerseys and polo shirts for the weekends and your downtime. At work, a crisp button-down shirt looks sharp and professional. A long-sleeved shirt with a pointy collar looks great paired with a buttoned vest (not a sweater vest, mind you). Experiment with pinstripes or smaller patterns such as checks or windowpane plaids.

Go for vests and cardigans!
Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to wear jackets and blazers all the time. Save them for parent-teacher conferences or school programs and opt for buttoned vests and cardigans instead. Keep the vests to basic colors such as black, gray or brown while for cardigans, textures and details play an important role. Look for engraved buttons, epaulettes or tipping at the neckline or cuffs for some visual interest.

Go for leather!
As a teacher, you’ll be doing a lot of standing up or walking around, maybe even running (if you’re chasing after second-graders). Have at least one or two pairs of good leather shoes such as loafers or simple oxfords in your closet. You can alternate those with leather sneakers on other days. And don’t forget to wear socks – there’s a reason why one should wear socks with leather shoes, you know.

The Quick Way to get an A
Think of your new teaching career as a makeover – you get new clothes and acquire a new style! Don’t be afraid to try colors and patterns – try one color or one pattern at a time along with your basics so you don’t get shell-shocked. Here are a few last-minute reminders:

  • Be careful with what you show. Ill-fitting clothing can sometimes cause wardrobe malfunctions. Make sure you check how your clothes fit when you’re bending down, sitting or standing up.
  • Add a little extra. Don’t be afraid to accessorize – a skinny tie with your long-sleeved shirt, your Batman cufflinks or perhaps your college pin on your vest’s lapel. The key is to choose an accessory that isn’t too outlandish yet will still be noticeable.
  • Match a great style with good hygiene. Stylish clothes are a waste if you’re a slob when it comes to personal hygiene. So make sure you keep a daily regimen of showering and shaving. Go easy on the fragrances but slather on deodorant to avoid untoward incidents.
  • Stay in touch. Young as you are, you don’t want to be known as “the teacher who wears those plaid shirts 24/7”. So keep track of trends and styles. Look at magazines, browse fashion blogs (like The YesStylist!) and keep your eyes open for what’s the latest or hottest. You don’t always have to buy – just try!


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