The Dissertation Defense

April 4, 2012

Got a nice email today from a reader named Bradley.

Thank so much for your consistently good advice and clever wit on Put This On. I am a graduate student with a meager budget, but who has been trying to put together a respectable, grown-up wardrobe for the past few years, and I have relied heavily on your suggestions and expertise.

I defended my dissertation last week, and I was somewhat torn about what I should wear to such an event. Academic settings tend to be kind of frumpy (to be kind), yet this was a rather momentous occasion for me, and I wanted to represent myself well. I tried on various combinations of slacks and shirts with a brown sport coat, trying to “look academic” while  trying not to appear too formal. I settled on something and began to walk out the door, when I was struck with the thought, “This is the most important event of my professional life so far. If I don’t wear a suit to this, when on earth would I wear one?”

I quickly changed into a charcoal suit (not wonderful quality, but very well-tailored) with a light blue shirt and a solid navy tie, and I felt like a million bucks. Rather than try to pull off a specific “look” for the event, I simply dressed myself well in a way that conveyed the importance of the event. I was relaxed and confident in my dress choice, which was the last thing I wanted to worry about during such a critical event. Even though I was the only person in the room in a tie, in no way did it come across as inappropriate.

Thanks again for your constant stream of good advice. I look forward to applying it even more as I move into the next phase of my career.

Every grown man should own a suit. Because every grown man will have times in his life when he needs one. It doesn’t need to be expensive, but it should be simple, conservative and it should fit. So that when that suit situation comes up, you know you’ve got it, and you can worry about the other stuff.

Good luck in you career, Bradley!

Filed Under: