Skip to main content

No jacket required: Academic women and the problem of the blazer


The full text article is not available for purchase.

The publisher only permits individual articles to be downloaded by subscribers.

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.

Keywords: academic women; fashion; identity; personal agency; professional dress; the jacket

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Webster University

Publication date: August 1, 2014

More about this publication?
  • Fashion, Style & Popular Culture is a peer-reviewed journal specifically dedicated to the area of fashion scholarship and its interfacings with popular culture. It was established to provide an interdisciplinary environment for fashion academics and practitioners to publish innovative scholarship in all aspects of fashion and popular culture relating to design, textiles, production, promotion, consumption and appearance-related products and services. Articles related to history, manufacturing, aesthetics, sourcing, marketing, branding, merchandising, retailing, technology, psychological/sociological aspects of dress, style, body image, and cultural identities, as well as purchasing, shopping, and the ways and means consumers construct identity as associated to Fashion, Style & Popular Culture are welcomed. The journal offers a broad range of written and visual scholarship and includes works done through various methods of research. We welcome conceptual, theoretical and translational applied research in the areas of fashion, style and popular culture. This journal hopes to stimulate new discussions in the fashion disciplines and to push the envelope of scholarship by welcoming new and established scholars to submit their works.

    Download the journal's Notes for Contributors.

  • Editorial Board
  • Information for Authors
  • Subscribe to this Title
  • Intellect Books page
  • Ingenta Connect is not responsible for the content or availability of external websites
  • Access Key
  • Free content
  • Partial Free content
  • New content
  • Open access content
  • Partial Open access content
  • Subscribed content
  • Partial Subscribed content
  • Free trial content