Professors Stealing the Spotlight


Dean Joseph Desciak donning a bow tie and suit jacket during a lecture (COURTESY OF DEAN DESCIAK)


With Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) smack dab in the heart of America’s Fashion Capital, it is no surprise that a walk through the Atrium often feels like a fashion show. From bloggers to style innovators, FCLC arguably has some of the most fashion savvy students. We’ve all had a class with the girl who looks miraculously put together for an 8:30 a.m. class or the guy who focuses on the details- from his socks to his backpack. But have you noticed that the students aren’t always the most fashionable people in the classroom? FCLC professors are stealing the stage themselves, expressing their style through unique outfits and pieces that earn double-takes and student admiration. The infamous “teacher uniform” (think: a tweed jacket with a coffee stained blouse) doesn’t appear to exist at FCLC, and professors are beginning to encompass their own individual twists on professional wear. But what exactly does professional dress mean to these stylish professors? Are they knowingly fashion forward or is it unintentional? The Observer turned to four stylish professors to unravel these questions.

To Assistant Freshman Dean, Joseph Desciak, clothing can be very revealing of a person’s character. “I think it says a lot about who someone is in the way that they dress. Not necessarily if it is fancy or glamorous, but if it is put together and it seems like someone put thought into it, I think it shows a little bit of who they are in their personality.”

He added, “I think you can get a better perspective of who they might be based on their appearance.” Dean Desciak is known around campus for his crisp, dapper style. Students admire his fashion often, particularly his signature touch: bow ties. “I like to wear bow ties, especially at academic events. Every once in a while a student will wear a bow tie and say, ‘I’m wearing this for you!’ I’ve even had gifts of bow ties once in a while,” he said. But for a faculty member who not only has but also appreciates style, Dean Desciak is confident that the student body rules as far as being most stylish. “I mean some of our students really have a unique fashion sense,” he explained.

Students who are familiar with Professor Elizabeth Rees of the English department are keenly aware of her style. Jasmine Fontaina,FCLC ’19, a Fashion Studies minor, first noticed Rees’s wardrobe while taking her Composition II course. She noted, “I like that her style is super professional and that she always has her outfits put together. Her color scheme always works.” Fontaina certainly isn’t the only admirer of Rees’s style; when she was only 22-years-old and a high school teacher, Rees was voted as best dressed. She laughed, “It was a very small high school… very small high school. I don’t think there were that many choices.” Today, as both a mother and professor, Rees gravitates towards versatile and classic pieces that tailor to her love for clothes as well as items that present her as a professional. Similar to Dean Desciak, Professor Rees is modest when it comes to the comparison of professor and student style. Rees even looks to the fashion of the student body for inspiration, “I definitely am watching students at times for, sort of like, trends and then think ‘is that something I can incorporate? How would I wear that as someone who is older in a professional role?’ etc. And sometimes it is yes and sometimes it is no.”

Professor Andrew Clark of the French department is one more faculty member with excellent taste. His style described in three words? “Tailored academic flâneur,” he noted. Clark’s wife is a fashion designer ( and the two share a love for style. For Professor Clark, New York City alone is reason enough to be attracted to fashion. He shared, “I think it’s hard to not be into fashion to some extent when you’re living in New York because you are surrounded by such unique displays of it.” As a language professor, Clark views clothing a language in its own. “There are different registers of language and [you] use different registers of language all of the time (when you’re talking to your children, when you’re talking to your friends) … And I think clothing is a similar thing and there are different registers of clothing that work in different places.” In the academic world, Clark believes dress includes presenting yourself as someone who can be taken seriously as well as someone who respects their environment. “There are times that I will wear ties or suits or things like this but it’s also a chance to dress up on a certain scale which can be fun.” When asked about his students’ style he said, “I mean, it depends on the student. I have some students who show up in pajamas and you have students who show up in all forms of creative interpretations.” However, Professor Clark is confident that, as a whole, the student body is more stylish than the professors. He added, “I think the students are far more creative and interesting than me.”

FCLC professors are upping the ante of their work wardrobes, but, while the notoriously lackluster professor outfits may be dissolving, the professors still remain modest when compared to the unique fashion sense of their students. Working in an academic setting, professors are tasked with presenting themselves as professionals and figures of authority. As adults and teachers, the creativity and individuality of their looks are often limited; however, clothing is a professor’s opportunity to not only look put together, but to define their own fashion tastes and styles. While the professors themselves may not want to identify as fashionable individuals, their stylish presence on campus is certainly not going unnoticed.