Over the last few years, I’ve written several posts on surviving graduate school, including dealing with expectations, managing your finances, coping with failure, and some more general advice. During that process, I’ve also come up with some small, helpful tips that just don’t fit into a broader theme. It seems a shame to let those tips disappear, so, for the next week I’ll be posting Andrew’s Quick Tips for Surviving Graduate School.
Tip #2: Invest in a good navy blazer.
We’ve all heard the line: “you can dress however you want, as long as you do good science.” This is a lie. Don’t believe it. You will, during the course of you graduate student career, actually find yourself in situations where you will, most certainly, need to dress a bit more professionally than ripped jeans, keens, and a t-shirt. Scientific conferences, professional workshops, or meeting the people who fund your grants all require at least an attempt a formality. And for that, there is the Navy Blazer*.
A good, high-quality navy blazer will cover just about anything short of a black-tie function. It adds a small degree of formality to just about any occasion and it’s incredibly flexible. It’s easy to travel with — I usually just travel in my navy blazer, that way it doesn’t get wrinkled in my bag and people, especially at the security checkpoint, treat you noticeably better, because our world is sometimes terrible. And yes, it’s even a good idea to have a blazer with you during field season. If you have to meet with an ornery wildlife officer or export agent, it helps to dress like you have some respect for their office and not show up in your fish-gut covered field clothes. And for those times when you’re traveling with scientific samples and potentially suspicious-looking equipment, being dressed like a professional that knows what they’re doing rather than like you just rolled out of a bad Hollister ad, will make a world of difference.
Invest in a good, high-quality, well-fitted navy blazer. Get it tailored to fit you just right. Places like Jos A. Banks will often have inexplicably good deals. A well-made blazer should last you at least through your graduate career.
*For obvious reasons, this advice is male-specific. I am definitely the wrong person to advise women in science how to dress. Fortunately, Dr. Holly Bik has that covered.
If you’re an average-sized guy, Value Village is a great place to go for these. I found a blazer once for $11 which was originally from Dunn’s Tailors (a fancy clothing place in downtown Vancouver). The sleeves were way too short for me, but most guys would have gotten on just fine.