Thursday, 26 May 2011

Philosopher Fashion

[Note: Thanks, all, for your patience with my blog-negligence and vacation. On a personal note—though I usually like to keep these posts as impersonal as possible—writing has been hard for me lately because I am having some eye problems. Seriously, I had to set the text at 26 points today to be able to see it, which must be really funny to see on a young-person’s computer. Hopefully, this will be remedied soon. In the meantime, please enjoy the post].

Philosophers, like most academics, like to think of themselves as incredibly unique individuals. You may have noticed that your philosopher likes to consider themselves a person untouched by societal pressures and norms. One thing that philosophers especially like to think they are unique about is their manner of dress.

Philosophers do really tend to dress differently than most non-philosophers, but they still generally fall within several philosopher-dress categories. Here are a few that I’ve noticed.

[Note: There can be cross-overs in all the categories. For example, a Free-Ranger might also be a Same Five Shirts].

Same Five Shirts

This category of philosopher can be combined with any other philosopher-dress category. This philosopher wears the same five shirts and/or same five outfits. Same Five Shirts philosophers have many reasons for wearing the same clothes, among their reasons are (1) lack of money, (2) they only like five shirts, (3) they don’t really care about clothing, (4) they feel guilty about buying more clothes when there are so many people in extreme poverty in the world, or (5) they are really picky about their clothes and have to go to extreme ends to purchase exactly what they want.


They have a lot of clothes, but these clothes may or may not have been popular twenty years ago.


Edgy philosophers are often tattooed or pierce body parts besides their ears. They often wear leather, spikes, chucks, and black. Edgy philosophers may or may not die their hair funky colors or shave it all off (this includes females, of course).


Oh, hipster philosophers. All of you know what a hipster is, right? Philosophers sometimes dress like hipsters (skinny jeans, black-rimmed glasses, suspenders, TOMS shoes).


This philosopher wears organic cotton, hemp, vegan shoes, neutral colors (no synthetic dyes), and/or re-purposed clothing.


This philosopher only wears expensive and/or expensive-looking clothing; usually tailored suits. An expensive philosopher will always have expensive-looking haircuts and accessories, too. They will always look their best, even during breaks.


T-shirts, cargo shorts, and sandals are the loafer’s favorites. When occasions call for dressing up, the loafer may wear a button-down, short-sleeved, cotton shirt. Sometimes, they also wear loafers without socks.


This philosopher always has something untucked, unbuttoned, askew, wrinkled, stained, and/or ripped. They really do not mean to be a messy-pants, but they just can’t help it.

Christian Kid

This philosopher may not be a Christian kid, but they sure dress like one. Christian-Kid philosophers wear very modest clothes such as off-brand polo shirts, cargo shorts, capris, tennis shoes, cardigans, flats, and/or blue jeans. Male philosophers of this variety will always tuck in their shirts. They tend to also keep their haircuts and styles fairly modest and predictable.

Too Poor

Some philosophers are whispers of the previous categories, but are too poor to really follow through completely with the philosopher-style.

What are some other philosopher-dress categories that you’ve seen?

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~The Philosiologist


  1. Hmm, my philosopher is a throw-back in his day-to-day life (combined with a too poor, five shirts) favoring the flannel-shirt-over-t-shirt thing from the early 90s when it's cold and plain old t-shirts when it's hot. Then in teaching, he's a same-five-shirts. Dress shirts tucked into dress pants/jeans/slacks depending. Except it's maybe 7 shirts.

  2. There is also the classic Black Only. Who knows how many clothes they have, because they only wear black shirts and black pants. I suppose its easy, and always matches?

  3. I only like five shirts + lack of money = Same three shirts

  4. Disjointed - lacks the wherewithal or attention to dress in any coherent way.

    Currently: loafers/cords/hiking shirt/hooded sports sweater. Lower half Fraser Crane, upper half delinquent.

  5. Most people in the academia seem to be in the habit of neglecting the importance of fashion...


  6. Most of these categories aren't unique to philosophers, but if you see someone dressed in one of those ways, you can usually say to yourself, "That's either a philosopher, a _____, or a ______," depending on the style.

    My philosopher is a variation of five shirts: he has probably a dozen or so for day-to-day use, but they are all either beige or grey polos. His jeans are all as identical as he can manage, and whenever he wears out shoes he orders the exact same kind.

  7. @William - to which my friend with a math PhD, who favors socks & sandals together (!!!), would respond "Show me a proof that fashion is important." ;)

  8. Philosiologist, I'm disappointed--for one thing, I think there are more well-dressed philosophers out there than you seem to think. At least, your categories don't allow for philosophers who dress well in non-black, non-expensive clothing.

    For another thing, where is your analysis of philosopher clothing by area of specialization? In my experience, aestheticians and cog-sci people tend to be better dressed while metaphysicians are more likely to sport Hawaiian or tie-dye shirts and/or leather jackets and logicians are more likely to fall into either business-y, black, or shabby (meaning holes in their clothes and so on).

    Perhaps we'll see a philosopher fashion part II?

  9. This reminds me of a blog post from what feels like forever ago:

    "The reason why analytic philosophers (and similarly mathematicians and cognitive scientists) have a difficult time dressing themselves or dress poorly is that the satisfaction of any sentence involving the 'goes with' relation is not finitely decidable."

  10. You cover the main kinds but there's also the somewhat rare "Sporty" philosopher, usually not studying anglo-american phil, but rather something either on Nietzsche or the body (e.g., Merleau-Ponty, phenomenology, etc.). Also a fitness nut.

  11. Philosophers show a remarkable convergence in the style of watches they like (simple, analogue, white face, case can be grey or silver, no additional features except, sometimes, date window). Observe and see.

  12. I hope your eyes get better. Very soon. Also, I wonder if particular disciplines of philosophy fall more heavily into a particular style?

  13. @Anon. 12:42: Any of the categories could encompass non-black, non-expensive clothing, so I don't know where you are getting that particular observation. Also, I tried to stay away from discussing which types of philosophers generally wear which types of clothing because people tend to not appreciate these types of characterizations of them. I just don't have the kind of energy required for that kind of battle.

    Thanks, everyone, for the kind comments.

  14. @westwood: I think they do fall into particular clothing styles based on the type of philosophy they do. Next time you're around a bunch of philosophers, see if you can pick out which philosophers study what and then compare it to their clothing styles. I find it very amusing. :-)

  15. I found this almost embarrassingly accurate. I am a five shirt philosopher and in some aspects, the "Christian Kid” dresser too. This and many of your other posts have let me laugh at myself--and that is a pleasure for which I must thank you. Consider yourself bookmarked.

    Charles B

  16. This is great, as usual!

  17. I actually think that one the first day of grad school (maybe even as undergrads) philosophers should be presented with a series of pictures.

    "Which look do you think you can pull off?"

    And voila --- you will be given your area of specialization.

    (FTR, I am an expensive messy-pants with hipster tendencies. And yes, it's possible to be expensive and a messy pants.)

  18. after reading this post... I wonder what do you even mean by the word ''philosopher''? Anyone who studies it? >.<