There is a lot of variety in the way professors dress on campus. Some wear suits, some wear shorts, while others wear flashy bow ties. And professors say personal style in the classroom is no accident.
Known to students as “the bow tie guy,” William Christensen, a professor in the statistics department, said his dress choice is a reflection of his personality.
“It’s the quintessential professor to wear a bow tie and be a little nerdy,” Christensen said. “I enjoy teaching more when I dress up and tell my students class is important to me.”
There is no formal dress code at BYU for professors other than the Honor Code, and Christensen said this has perks.
“I’m glad BYU doesn’t have a dress code and that there is lots of variety,” Christensen said. “Professors get to choose the best way to connect with their students.”
Christensen said his student evaluations are filled with comments about how cool his bow ties are. Christensen finds them a unique way to be formal, yet fun.
“I meet someone with a bow tie and I think, they have a story,” Christensen said. “I kind of think it’s an iconic way of rebelling against society a little.”
Karen Hepworth, a teacher in the religion department, said her formal dress is a reflection of the sacred material she teaches everyday.
“I dress my best because I feel it sets a tone,” Hepworth said. “Because I am teaching scripture, I feel I need to reflect that in my dress. ”
Hepworth said her dress choice says a lot about who she is and her level of respect for the subject she teaches.
“It is my silent sermon,” Hepworth said. “When a student walks into my classroom and sees me in my best dress, I feel it communicates to them the reverence and respect I have for God.”
In stark contrast to the formal dress of most professors is Earl Stice, a professor in the accounting department, who proudly teaches in shorts and Hawaiian shirts.
“The last time I wore a tie in class was 1991,” Stice said. “It’s nice that BYU lets us dress how we feel most comfortable.”
Stice said his casual wear is a symbol of resistance against stereotypes about accounting professors.
“Accounting has a stereotype of being strict and rigid,” Stice said. “So this is my way of pushing back on that.”
Stice said his students seem to enjoy his attire, and many even try to replicate it.
“Every semester I have students that go to D.I. and come to class and impersonate me,” Stice said.
Stice said the casual wear seems to break the ice between professors and students and open the door to a more comfortable environment.
“It reflects the way I teach,” Stice said. “More loose, more interactive and more friendly in the classroom.”
Different departments on campus have an informal standard, Stice said, but no matter how professors choose to dress, it reflects his or her attitude and teaching style.