Blazers, Sneakers and Jeans: Behind the Fashion Choices of NYU Professors

“I’m not going to wear those awful clunky shoes that a lot of straight white men wear. They just bring me to tears.”

(Illustration by Sophia Di Iorio)

A simple stroll through Washington Square Park makes it clear that NYU students reflect the fashion-conscious spirit New York City is known for. Classrooms contain an eclectic display of personal aesthetics and stylistic choices. But this phenomenon doesn’t just begin and end with students. In fact, many professors see their in-class style as another medium for teaching.

Senior Language Professor Bruce Bromley uses his style as an opportunity to broaden the perspectives of students, teaching them vital lessons that can’t be found in textbooks. Bromley believes that his wardrobe can allow students to gain a wider perspective than the rigid mindset that many people have about gender norms.

“I’m working with mainly first- and second-year students here, whose experience of maleness and femaleness may be rather narrow,” Bromley said. “Since narrowness doesn’t interest me, I try to wear clothing that puts into motion the fact that there is more than one way of dressing as a man. I’m trying to expand some of their options for what they may want to do in their own lives over time.”

Bromley displays many aspects of his own life experiences in his clothing and sees his style as a reflection of himself.

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“I’m wearing things that come from parts of the world where I have traveled and lived and that means a lot to me,” he said. “Often, this is not Western.”

He indicated that conformity is not his modus operandi.

“I don’t own a pair of jeans,” Bromley said. “I think if we as a species have to wear clothes, they should be interesting […] I’m not going to wear those awful clunky shoes that a lot of straight white men wear. They just bring me to tears.”

Professor Kathleen Rizy, a French language lecturer, has a different relationship with her professional wardrobe. Rizy said she uses clothes to underscore her competence. Blazers, for example, boost her confidence.

“When I started teaching, I was pretty young, and so I wanted to have a more professional outfit to kind of convey that I knew what I was doing,” Rizy said. “I went to Catholic school and we would have to wear uniforms, so having my own kind of uniform makes me feel more prepared.”

Rizy also explained how being a female professor has influenced how she formulates her outfit choices when she’s at work.

“I try to cover up a little more when I teach,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of advice from older female perspectives to be conscientious of this. Not to say that all women have to do this, but I guess that was something that was always present for me.”

On the other hand, Professor Isolde Brielmaier, assistant professor of Critical Studies in the Department of Photography, Imaging and Emerging Media, doesn’t like to separate her work and play outfits.

“I just am who I am. I don’t get dressed with a particular angle when I know that I’m going to teach,” Brielmaier said. “I understand that that’s my sort of professional space and so I hope that I carry myself as such, but I don’t really distinguish between what I’m wearing when I’m teaching and what I’m wearing when I’m just sort of moving through my day.”

Although she doesn’t compromise comfort for style and loves to run around the city in a reliable pair of sneakers, Brielmaier still likes to take her professionalism and the way that she influences students into consideration when picking out her clothes for the day.

“I would stress that I definitely think about the fact that I am in front of students, particularly at Tisch, where we’re not only focusing on critical thinking, but we’re also thinking about how to prepare our students to go out in the world, whether they are going to work in a creative or a non-creative space,” she said.

Like students, many professors make conscious decisions about their everyday outfits, even if their motives are a little different. Although what your professor is wearing may not be the first thing on your mind at your 8 a.m. lecture, it could have a larger impact on your education than you might have realized.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, May 6, 2019, print edition. Email Hanna McNeila at [email protected]

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