- October 20, 2021
I’m not an educator, but I can imagine the challenges teachers face in this day and age. Figuring out what to wear on the first day of school is pretty low on the priority list. However, just like the first day at a new job, the first day of school is also a chance to
I’m not an educator, but I can imagine the challenges teachers face in this day and age. Figuring out what to wear on the first day of school is pretty low on the priority list. However, just like the first day at a new job, the first day of school is also a chance to make a good impression on both the students you’ll be working with and their families. Here are a few things to consider when picking that first day of school outfit.
It should come as no surprise that you’ll need to follow the dress code set out in your district faculty handbook. For students, dress codes read more like “what NOT to wear” and may not provide much guidance on what TO wear, which may be the same for teachers. Business casual is always a safe bet; however, you may want to consider dressing a level above what you’d normally wear in the classroom for the start of the school year.
Once you take into consideration your dress code, the next thing to plan for is the subject matter and age group of students you are teaching. I would not recommend a three-piece suit for a kindergarten teacher or a tracksuit for the Vice Principal. Office staff may dress more formally, and gym teachers are basically required to wear shorts and sneakers. The actual physical demands of the job vary widely, even within the same school.
For the most part, you’ll be expected to be on your feet, so a comfortable standing shoe is key. Support flats or loafers with or without insoles can do the trick. If you have a more casual setting, a monotone pair of sneakers with either a shirt dress or khakis and a collared shirt is an easy-enough option. Avoid heels or anything too tight. If you have new shoes, be sure to start breaking them in a week or so before the big day.
Another comfort factor is temperature. If your school is air-conditioned, you’ll definitely want to dress in layers, whether that’s having a sweater on hand or a quick change from a t-shirt to a button-down before students arrive. For classrooms without AC, well, you certainly don’t want these kids to literally see you sweat. So, short sleeves, natural fabrics, and looser fits should help you keep your cool.
Speaking of natural fabrics, another trick for teacher outfitting is wearing pieces rendered in stain-resistant and easy to wash material. Whether you’re an art teacher or a math teacher, schoolwork can be dirty work — hello, chalk! When back to school shopping, look for items that are machine washable, stain-resistant, and, if possible, odor-free. Brands like Landsend, Ably, and Elizabeth & Clarke offer workplace basics in stainproof technology. Personally, I really think it’s worth the investment for workhorse pieces like button-downs and straight-fit pants that can be mixed and matched and worn more than once a week as part of your teaching “uniform.”
Of course, high-tech stain repelling apparel doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. If your school is on the more casual side or has “dress-down” days, a simple pair of jeans will do the trick for keeping you comfortable and are tough enough for long days and messy tasks. Also, brands like Old Navy and Uniqlo’s full stock of items are machine-washable and easy to wear.
If this is your first time back in the classroom for a while and you aren’t quite sure where to start, this season’s trends are surprisingly school-appropriate. Take a page out of the retro yearbook, with Peter-Pan collared shirts, sweater vests, pleated skirts, and penny loafers. Or look for elevated loungewear-inspired pieces like easy midi-dresses or pull-on trousers.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to have fun. Sure, you need your students to recognize your authority and take the studies seriously, but you’ll also want them to share your enthusiasm for the subjects they’ll be learning. I remember a chemistry teacher in high school who had a tie-dyed lab coat. A middle school teacher I know wears chemistry-Beeker earrings and a periodical table printed dress for her first day with students. And with fall sports upon us, don’t be afraid to don the school colors. Even something as simple as a pin or fun socks can inspire some creativity.
Here’s to a happy, healthy, and high-style school year!