Classy in the Classroom: Menswear Edition

Image credit: (2018), CC0/PD; text added.

Professional dress for male teachers

By Barb Szyszkiewicz

In an article in the Summer 2019 issue of Today’s Catholic Teacher, Celeste Behe offered tips for professional dress for female teachers. But we didn’t want to leave out their male counterparts! While we did manage to fit in a sidebar, we wanted to be sure to give the gentlemen equal time.

We took to Twitter and asked male teachers, principals, and superintendents about the professional wardrobe they prefer.

What does “professional dress” mean for men? Golf shirt? Sport shirt? Sweater? Jacket? Tie or no tie? And are jeans ever OK?

William E. Brannick, Director of Technology for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Schools (and a former classroom teacher and principal) maintained,

The large majority of our Catholic schools in our country have student dress codes and … uniforms. We must think of our attire as a professional uniform.

Brannick cites Flip-Flops Are Still Not an Option! by Sal Guccione (NCEA, 2015), noting that Guccione urges teachers to model career readiness by dressing professionally.


Keven Rinaman, Director of Technology for Calvert Catholic Schools (Tifflin, Ohio) wears khakis and polo shirts to school, and advises teachers to “wear clothes that make you feel confident.”

It’s not just about confidence, though. Gregg Bruno, principal of St. John Vianney Catholic School (Wyoming, Michigan) shares his rule of thumb:

I always keep two things in mind. First, on any given day I may have the opportunity to be in church before the Tabernacle and Blessed Sacrament. Am in dressed in a way that reflects that at any moment I might be in the presence of our Lord and Savior? Secondly, I also try to be a role model for students in that whatever might be in style, we’re supposed to be “in the world but not of it.” A simple classic shirt and tie is my go to for making sure I’m walking my talk on both points.

New teacher on the block

First-year teachers should be extra careful with their wardrobe choices, Bannick advises. Make those first impressions count! “Consistent professional dress is a key way to draw respect from your students, peers, administrators, and parents,” he continues.

Location, location, location

Geography sometimes plays a part in clothing choice for teachers. Dr. Tim Uhl, Superintendent of Montana Catholic Schools, was the exception to the rule:

As I sit here in jeans and a T-shirt, it occurs to me that I’m probably not the best person to ask! It depends so much on where you live. Take a look at the attorneys on your board — what do they wear when they aren’t in court? Here in Montana, it’s rare to find people in ties so it’s unrealistic to expect our male teachers to do the same. However, looking nice sends a clear message to students that it’s time to work.

Do as I do

“Students are extremely perceptive and male teachers need to be appropriate role models,” notes Christopher Cosentino, president of St. Maria Goretti Catholic High School (Hagerstown, Maryland). He continues:

Male teachers should always be conscious of how they dress when they are in front of a class. The simplest model to follow is it shouldn’t be any less than what we expect of our students.

Brannick agrees:

We will often meet resistance with students not meeting the letter of the law regarding dress code. It becomes easier to enforce when our professional attire is respectful, appropriate, and consistent.

The spirit of the law

“You need to dress to fit your situation,”says Adam W. Cottos, who will begin a new teaching job this fall at Communion of Saints School (Cleveland, Ohio). He explains:

If your school has days when you can dress in clothes that have school logos and such, dress in those. I have found that students will also show respect when you support the school and them in this way.

Can you be too formal?

Cottos advises you to note what your colleagues typically wear to school. He continues:

Teachers need to dress in a way that sets the tone for the environment. Dressing in a shirt and tie creates an environment of professionalism where students and colleagues build respect and gain attention. While this helps, you can overdress and stand out too much to the point students and teachers ask “why are you all dressed up?”

Put on Christ

Teacher and author Justin McClain, a Lay Dominican, encourages one important addition to your school attire, for male and female teachers alike:

Consider wearing a crucifix or cross on the exterior of your clothing! I wish that more Catholic school teachers … would wear a crucifix or cross on the outside (subsequent to the inside foremost), and perhaps encourage students to do likewise. This most iconic of Christian symbols serves to provide a positive, inspirational witness in a world in greater need of faith, hope, and love.

We thank our panel of teachers and administrators from among our Twitter followers for helping with this article. If you’re on Twitter, find them here:

William Brannick: @CoachB0066

Gregg Bruno: @PrincipalSJV

Christopher Cosentino: @ChrisJCosentino

Adam W. Cottos: @acottos

Justin McClain: @McClainJustin

Keven Rinaman: @kevenrinaman

Dr. Tim Uhl: @mtcathschools

Barb Szyszkiewicz is managing editor of Today’s Catholic Teacher. Learn more about her writing at

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