Student fashion follows academic lines

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A girl pulls a coat over her sweats as she leaves the Richards Building.

Three elementary education majors button up their cardigans as they leave campus for practicum.

Students dress to impress with their career goals in mind
Students dress to impress with their career goals in mind (Photo illustration by Elliot Miller)

A guy sporting Superman pajama pants walks out of the biochemistry lab.

The business major straightens his suit jacket and checks his watch — he has an interview in 15 minutes.

BYU students across campus unconsciously advertise their interests and career goals by the way they fit into stereotypical dress attire.

Heidi Isaacson has narrowed down the trend in her major, elementary education, to a single fashion piece.

“There are lots of cardigans that appear on people who are further along in the major,” Isaacson said.

She sees students leaving the McKay Building in dress pants and cardigans, looking a little out of place among the jeans and T-shirts worn by other students. Isaacson attributed the dress pattern to a BYU policy that requires semi-professional dress for students doing practicum in schools.

“Rather than getting an entirely new wardrobe, they wear a cardigan,” Isaacson said.

Robert Pottorff, a transfer student from Dallas, was surprised to see suits in the classroom during his first weeks at BYU.

“From the guy’s perspective, you divide the grouping into two groups: the active-decision group and the not-decision group — the group that decides what to wear and the group that just wears what they have,” Pottorff said.

Pottorff said that his own major, computer science, belongs to the second category.

“Brown mountain shoes that are strung together with parachute cable — that’s pretty much a dead giveaway for the second group,” he said.

Eliza Erickson commented on the female half of the BYU fashion spectrum. She often studies in the Brimhall Building but feels out of place. She is an exercise science major and has noticed that the communications majors take it up a notch dress-wise. Erickson, like many of her peers in the sciences, dresses for comfort. Hoody sweatshirts are a staple, and sweats are not uncommon in her major, where students often come straight from classes in the Smith Fieldhouse.

Some of these trends have their roots in official policies. The Department of Communications has a professionalism policy for all of its students. Many of the lab classes, on the other hand, require long, loose pants.

McKenna Hill, an accounting major who works at the Career Center in the Tanner Building, said that students who are doing interviews on campus must abide by the BYU dress code, plus business casual. Every student in the business school interviews there at least once.

Lee Perry, the associate dean of Marriott School, admitted that several reasons might account for the more professional style exhibited by business majors.

Professors in the business school require professional dress for team presentations in class, said Cheryl McBeth, assistant to the Dean. She added that some finance students have jobs in the community where an office dress code is maintained. Many business students also work at the MTC.

“I think it’s natural selection,” Perry said. “The students who come to the Marriott School are more career-focused.”

Whether it stems from the college culture or official policy, the faculty members at the business school see nothing wrong with the fashion inequality among the majors.

“We would hope that we would look a little bit different from some of the other colleges,” McBeth said.

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