If you’re in higher education and live in the Southeast or Texas (but not Arkansas), then you may have known about the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)annual meeting in Dallas, TX that concluded yesterday. This conference draws predominantly administrators who are concerned with the accreditation (standard maintenance and federal financial aid hangs in the balance!) of their institutions. When preparing for this conference, I had no idea how to dress myself.
In particular, I want to enlighten any male first-time attenders about the attire. I came prepared but definitely had to edit what I wore one day. I can’t vouch for any of the early workshops but only the Sunday through Tuesday sessions.
What Was the Clothing Expectation?
As ridiculous as it sounds, I couldn’t find any information about this online. Why was this important? If dressing appropriately matters to you, as it probably does if you’re in an administrative position in higher education, then under-dressing can undermine your ability to be taken seriously.
I was recently at the Summer Institute in Austin, TX and had to dress way down to standard casual business. Men who wore ties were put on display in the main sessions (much to everyone else’s enjoyment). However, that was not the case in Dallas.
The general attire for men broke into one of two categories: traditional dress and “smart casual”. We’ll deal with these in order.
By traditional dress, I mean slacks, jacket, dress shirt, tie, and leather shoes. Most men fit in this category on the first day and about half by the second day. Among these, a strong majority worse a slacks/jacket matching suit appropriate to the season (fall) which meant primarily navy and grey. The rest mixed and matched coats and slacks that were of highly quality with nice shoes and matching ties.
When I say “smart causal”, thebalance.com offers a good reference. Almost all of the rest of the gentlemen at this conference fell into this category. This includes slacks, dress shirt, jackets (mainly suit jackets and blazers–see this article at realmenstyle.com), and nice shoes but not necessarily a tie. Many wore sweaters and sweater vests. Often, if wearing a sweater or vest, a tie was still worn. I saw almost no one wearing only a collared shirt and tie (without a jacket or sweater).
Here’s what happened to me. On the second day, I originally started with only casual dress: still slacks and leather shoes, and a button down but no jacket or tie. To me, in the primary session, it was clear that I was underdressed and returned to my hotel to level-up in my attire. Later that afternoon, I was a special session and I would have been the only man there not on the dressier end of “smart casual” or in traditional dress clothing. I was very glad that I did.
On the third day, the attire relaxed significantly but not entirely. Some men were downgrading to jeans and polos. However, most men were relaxing to dressing in the “smart casual” category. There remained gentlemen who wore full suits and ties. I stepped down from my modified second day to a jacket and slacks with no tie. I fit in perfectly. (Additionally, Dallas hit a cool streak and I was grateful for the jacket.)
Note: I will add that I saw few men with facial hair. For those who had it, theirs was extremely clean and tidy (none of the modern beard unruliness!). Hairstyles were conservative–exactly what you’d expect to see with the dress code. My shorter hairstyle (fairly traditional of many late Gen Xers) was definitely in the minority.
What Will I Wear Next Year?
Presuming I return, I will wear full suits and ties, complete with leather shoes. Without quality dress clothing, men stood out from the crowd. This may require some new luggage for me.
Concluding Clothing Thoughts
At night, walking around, you don’t want to be in a suit. Take some more relaxed clothing. Additionally, my hotel (the wonderful Magnolia in Dallas) had a gym (as many do these days). Exercise clothing would be wise if you plan to use it or jog along the streets of Dallas (it’s pretty flat–it would go well). My walking shoes doubled as my exercise shoes. These weren’t my best running shoes but they sufficed in order to bring down what luggage I would take.
I’ve never written a post like this but hope that it helps someone else.