What Should Men Wear To Academic Conferences?
You've checked the program, you've prepared your slides, you've booked your accommodation, so now you're all ready to head off to your academic conference. Just one problem – you need to decide what you're going to wear and pack it before you leave.
What is acceptable attire for a conference, and how can you make sure that what you're wearing is appropriate? We're here to help with our guide on what to wear to academic conferences. We've already covered what women should wear in a separate post, so today we're looking at tips for men.
Still wondering what all these different academic events really are? Check out our insight into the difference between a conference, a seminar, a workshop and a symposium to get clear.
The basic rule: a bit smarter than usual
The norms around dress in academia can vary wildly between fields – in fields like law or business, for example, it's common for men to wear a suit most of the time. Other fields, like history or philosophy, tend towards a more casual look with items like corduroy trousers being common. When it comes to conferences, you should aim for what is typical for attire in your field, but a little bit smarter. If you usually wear trousers and a shirt, for example, you should consider adding a tie for a conference. If you usually wear jeans, consider wearing dress trousers for conference events.
A go-to conference outfit
If you're unsure what to wear, then you can't go wrong with a simple outfit of dress trousers in a black, navy, or khaki colour, and a decent quality collared cotton shirt in light blue or another pale colour. Bring a jacket and tie with you in your suitcase, so that you can add either or both of these items if you feel underdressed. For shoes, your trainers might be comfortable but they're almost certainly not conference-appropriate, so leave them at home! Opt for smart leather shoes or boots which can be worn under your trousers. Do remember to try out your shoes by wearing them around the house for a few hours to make sure that they're comfortable – you can do a surprisingly large amount of walking during a conference and you don't want to be dealing with blisters or sore feet from ill-fitting shoes.
Making your outfit your own
If you enjoy interesting fashion, or if you're just bored of everyone wearing the same thing to conferences, then you can adjust your outfit to make it more your own while still being smart. Accessories like colourful ties or bow ties, tie pins, or pocket squares are fun ways to add a bit of individuality to your look. You could also take the time to experiment with an accessory you don't usually wear – a silk scarf, for example, can be easily tied into an ascot tie which looks classic and classy and adds a fun touch to a smart outfit. You could also wear a slightly unusual item like a tweed jacket or a waistcoat to make your outfit more distinctive.
Consider climate-appropriate clothing
Where in the world is the conference that you're travelling to? Check what the local weather conditions are likely to be and adjust your clothing accordingly. In very hot climates, you will want to opt for lighter fabrics like cotton or linen so that you don't overheat or get too sweaty. If there will be strong sunlight, you might even consider bringing along a hat such as a Panama hat to keep the sun off your face while you're travelling. For colder climates, add a thick woollen jumper which can be worn over your shirt and under your jacket to keep you worn. If it's likely to rain, make sure that your shoes are waterproof and that you've packed an umbrella so that you don't arrive at the conference soaking wet. Finally, you'll definitely need a bag of some kind to carry around conference materials and handouts as well as snacks and a bottle of water. Conferences often give out a welcome pack in a canvas bag, and you can use this if needed, but you could also bring along a smart satchel or messenger bag to carry your items in style.
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Networking is one of the most important parts of a conference, but lots of people find it hard to engage with other people. At conferences it's even more difficult: you're talking with so many people, many of whom are successful businesspeople or established academics. But a good way to contend with this is to be well-read. There are some specific books you can pick up which can help you specifically with speaking publicly and networking. Read on for our list of aforementioned books.