“The student pulled up his trousers, pushed back his shoulders, and walked with confidence to his class.”
That is how Chancellor Jack Hawkins described the reaction on the first time he explained to a student what it means to “dress properly for the occasion.”
That phrase became part of the Troy University standard of student conduct known as The Trojan Way, but not everyone agrees on what it means.
Hawkins said about four years ago, he was driving his car across campus when he came across a student with his pants far too low, and he pulled up beside the student, asked him to get into the car with him and gave him some advice.
Hawkins said that he knew the student wanted to become a professional, and that not one professional on campus “wanted to see his underwear,” and further explained the importance of dressing properly.
Hawkins said the student simply said he understood, but asked whether he could stop the car and let him out because “he was late for class.” Hawkins said that looking back, he realizes that the student probably had no idea who he was at the time.
After that encounter, Hawkins discussed the experience with colleagues in administration.
“We owe every student the benefit of our counsel and advice,” Hawkins said he and colleagues concluded. “We must share with them what leads to success — and what will lead to failure.”
From that discussion came The Trojan Way, which seeks to promote personal civility, responsibility and accountability.
“Dress properly for the occasion” is included as one of the five things Trojans are expected to do.
“Wearing appropriate clothing for class is part of getting an education,” said Susan Sarapin, an assistant professor in the Hall School of Journalism and Communication. “Your time here is preparing you for the future, not only in what you learn, but how you present yourself.”
“My first impression of a student is formed on first sight,” Sarapin said. “And clothes make the man or woman.”
When students were asked what they felt was appropriate and inappropriate for class, answers varied, but there were common themes.
Heath Barton, a risk management major from Opp who was a junior in the spring, and current SGA president, said, “If you are going to wear a T-shirt, make sure it is a shirt representing Troy or a Troy club or organization.”
Barton said hats on campus are fine, but not to wear hats in the classroom. “Troy is known for that one-on-one relationship with the professor and student, and wearing a hat prevents eye contact and disrupts that relationship,” he said.
Barton said that women should never wear “anything strapless; we don’t want anything looking like it might fall out.”
Barton said he believes that professors do judge you by what you wear.
“If the student shows they care by how they dress, I believe the teacher will be more willing to help them out in the class,” he said.
Barton, who is also a former student Freshman Forum director, said that when going for interviews on campus, men should “always wear a suit or a blazer with a tie” and not wear any distracting colors or patterns that can take the focus off what they are saying.
For a woman taking part in an interview, Barton said that a skirt with a blouse is appropriate, and a blazer is good, but “there is such a thing as too short a skirt.”
“Girls, just don’t wear anything that gives off the wrong vibe about you,” said Alex Thorpe, a nursing major from Madison, Alabama, who was a junior in the spring.
“You can never go wrong with a collared shirt,” said William Waters, biology major from Slocomb, Alabama, who was a junior in the spring. “When I first started attending Troy, I wore gym shorts a lot because that’s what I wore in high school, but I soon noticed after pledging a fraternity and later joining ROTC that that was not appropriate.”
“Teachers judge you by how you dress, and whether or not you dress professionally,” Waters said. “And I think it can affect your grade.”
“As my grandmother would say, don’t make people get the wrong ideas,” said Jalen Bivens, a broadcast journalism major from Montgomery, Alabama, who was a junior in the spring.
“For guys, if you’re going to wear gym clothes, don’t wear anything with your sleeves cut off, and make sure your pants are pulled up.”
“I might not dress up every day throughout the semester, but the first few classes I make sure I have on a nice shirt,” Bivens said. “I think teachers do judge you on first impressions and how you dress.”
Allie Bowen, a hospitality, sport and tourism management major from McDonough, Georgia, who was a junior in the spring, said to never wear hats because a lot of teachers find it disrespectful and you don’t want to run that risk.
Suki Huang, a business major from Tianjin, China, who was a junior in the spring, said, “Don’t ever wear slippers to class.”