The Kirby Cen­ter’s Spring 2015 Class of stu­dents in Wash­ington, D.C. Hillsdale College | Courtesy

American fashion designer Rachel Zoe once said, “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” When choosing what to wear, you are choosing how to present yourself to others.Your peers notice, your pro­fessors notice, and yes, you notice. In other words, what you wear says a lot about what you think of your peers, your betters, and, perhaps most of all, yourself. 

Now, you don’t have to have an exis­tential crisis every time you open your wardrobe in the morning, but it is worth keeping in mind a healthy sense of your own self-worth — and the respect you owe those around you — when choosing your outfit. 

Now, as a school that values the concept of self-gov­ernment, I do not believe Hillsdale College should institute a dress code. Forcing college-aged stu­dents to present them­selves in a manner they do not wish to wouldn’t be con­sistent with the values of self-gov­ernment Hillsdale stands for. That said, Hillsdale stu­dents would do well, of their own free will, to present them­selves as stu­dents worthy of the matchless aca­demic training they receive at Hillsdale in the way they dress. 

Many stu­dents, cer­tainly more than vir­tually every other college I have seen, do just that. And I think this is a tes­tament to the char­acter of my fellow Hillsdale stu­dents. But I have seen my fair share of pajama bottoms and sweat­pants, or, the greatest fashion faux pas of all, socks with sandals. 

I get it, it’s com­fortable and not everyone has time to find a great outfit every day on campus. But there are several ways you can dress neatly and respect­fully without dam­aging your pro­duc­tivity in layers of stuffy, stiff clothing. It’s as simple as opting for the button-down blouse instead of the over­sized t‑shirt, or slipping on a pair of jeans instead of sweatpants. 

While dressing well may look dif­ferent for dif­ferent people, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind should compel Hillsdale’s stu­dents to “dress for success,” as the old adage goes. According to a 2014 Yale study, “wearing nice clothes in the office can affect the way people per­ceive you.” At college, stu­dents often feel more focused, con­fident, and alert if their outfit projects these qualities. 

In fact, wearing clothing you could just as easily wear to sleep at night can have the opposite effect. You’re men­tally primed to doze off, not write a paper.

For over a century, Hillsdale stu­dents have stood out for their com­mitment to the study of that which is good, true, and beau­tiful. Let’s con­tinue to present our values in the way we dress, too.


Sarah Weaver is pur­suing a master’s degree in the Van Andel Graduate School of Statesmanship.