The “Suited Up” Experiment

What did you wear today?

Alice in a suit

This is perhaps not the most important question that music research graduate students have to answer, and yet it was something that I started hearing more about over the course of my academic career. I remember watching some academic presentations, and a friend of mine noted that only one of the presenters wore a suit. Differences in clothing choices between fields (ethnomusicology and musicology) were casually discussed amongst faculty and students. Even the smallest comments had subtle subtext, the “you look nice today!” that came out of my own mouth on days when colleagues were giving lectures and therefore were wearing more formal clothing.

Certainly, my fellow grad students look nice in jeans and polos too, but it sparked a little thought in my mind: do our clothes have an impact on how we perceive each other? How seriously do we take others regarding work, teaching, and research based on their clothing choice? How does what we wear impact our interactions with students, teachers, and colleagues?

After some preliminary discussions with my cohort here at the University of Maryland, I decided to conduct a little “experiment.” For two weeks at the beginning of this semester, a number of us are committing to wearing business-casual clothing. Typically, most of us wear somewhat formal clothes, but jackets, ties, dark dress pants, and button up shirts are a bit more uncommon. Throughout the experiment, we will observe how these clothes affect our lives as graduate students.

The “Suited Up” Experiment will kick off a series of blog posts on what it means to be a graduate student as well as a professional. As students, we are not only doing research, but we are also beginning careers, both in and out of academia. We have CVs, interviews, business cards, professional organizations (like SEM), and assistantships based on work we do. Many of us have jobs outside of our schools as well: we teach private lessons; we work in libraries; we organize music events; and a whole host of other things. I hope this series will highlight the many aspects of being a graduate student in music research and ethnomusicology that exist beyond our research.



1 thought on “The “Suited Up” Experiment

  1. Hi Alice, I enjoyed your post! I’ll be very interested to see how your experiment goes. I am an historical ethnomusicology PhD student currently on a placement and have found myself considering what I wear and how my clothes affect how I’m perceived by my peers, department and other co-workers. I came across the “Stylish Academic” Facebook page recently and this blog post – – both of which you might be interested in if you haven’t already seen. Thanks again for the post!

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