Fashion staples for MALE teachers

Guest post by Alex T. Valencic Ed.M

Once upon a time, I was a young undergraduate student preparing for my first placement in a school setting. Our professor spent about 20 minutes telling the women in the class what they should and should not wear. She then turned to the men in the room and said, “Sorry, guys, I don’t really know what you should wear. I think you are supposed to have a whistle.”

After reading Kathleen’s post about the wardrobe essentials for female teachers, I asked if I could do a guest post for her to offer our male counterparts some suggestions. She readily agreed. (Note: Neither Kathleen nor I are being compensated by any of the companies mentioned in this post.)

Let’s get started with our feet and then we will work our way up.

As teachers, we are going to spend a lot of time on our feet. That means that A) we need to have comfortable shoes and B) we need to have socks that aren’t going to make our feet stink. My recommendation? One pair of black leather shoes and one pair of brown leather shoes. (Or similar shoes with man-made materials if you don’t do leather. This goes for belts, too.)

I love Rockport’s dress-casual shoes: they are comfortable, stylish, and go with just about any outfit imaginable. Yes, I know that there are male teachers out there who wear Nike or New Balance or other sneakers to work each day. I mean absolutely no disrespect when I say this: Don’t be that guy. Especially if you are a pre-service or early career teacher. Your students will judge you based on your shoes and if your shoes are too casual, they will be too casual in their relationships with you. (Exception: field trips, outdoor field days, and no-student work days. Bust out the sneakers on those days. Your feet will thank you!)

men's shoes Rockport

Unlike your shoes, you do not need to be super conservative with your socks. Really, anything goes: argyle, bright colors, funky themes, branded characters that are school appropriate, etc. Have fun with your socks! Gold Toe socks have been my favorite for years. You can go with their traditional dress socks or you can explore their fashion sock line. You can also find super cheap socks at discount stores if you are looking for something for a specific event and you don’t care if the socks have fallen apart by the end of the day.

You are definitely going to need a good pair of slacks.

In fact you need several good pairs. I suggest getting at least four colors: black, grey, brown/tan, and navy blue. Any shirt you are going to be wearing will go well with one of these colors, I promise. Make sure that they all have a pleated front. Seriously. Don’t wear flat-front slacks. Ever. I prefer to buy my slacks at Kohl’s. Their store brand (Croft and Barrow) is my go-to for all of my work clothes (pants, shirts, ties, socks). They are stylish, comfortable, and fit within a teacher’s budget.

A good leather belt to keep your pants up is a must and it needs to go with your shoes.

Always remember to match your leathers! If you are wearing black shoes then your belt has got to be black also. Brown goes with brown. There are high-quality belts out there that are reversible, which means you can literally get a two-for-one deal. I recently picked up one made by Dickies that has some magic worked into that makes it stretchy. I love it! Braided belts are so not in vogue, though, even if you still can find them on racks in stores. And please, don’t wear a belt with studs. Save that for the clubs.

How many button-down dress shirts do you own?

You should have at least two: one that is white and one that is blue, but I would suggest having at least two of each. (I have an assortment of button-down dress shirts that span the colors of the rainbow.) A white dress shirt will go with any pair of slacks and a blue shirt is just a good idea.

You should also own at least one cardigan, one argyle sweater, and a vest. Why? You are going to have some days when you get up and realize your shirt is wrinkled and you don’t have time to iron. Throw on a cardigan, sweater, or vest and you are good to go! Also, let’s be super real: schools have the most unpredictable HVAC systems on earth. Your room may be boiling hot one minute and freezing cold the next. Dressing in layers is always a good idea!

Now that you’ve got your basic clothes, it is time to accessorize.

As a male teacher, you don’t have a lot of options, honestly. In fact, the necktie is just about your only choice and you probably don’t have to wear a tie to work every day. (I do, but that is totally a personal decision I made based on some advice from a cooperating teacher many years ago.)

I recommend having the following styles: solid color satin, diagonal stripes, geometric patterns, and an abstract Jerry Garcia tie. Holiday ties and seasonal ones are an added bonus. Oh, and make sure you have at least one bow tie so that you can join in #BowTieTuesday each week! (Pre-tied or one that you have to tie yourself, doesn’t matter.) One note: please don’t wear your tie too long (past your belt) or too short (above your belly button). If you don’t know how to tie a tie, check out the YouTube tutorials from Alex Krasny or Patrick Novotny.

And there you have it! The essential wardrobe items every male teacher ought to have. Did I miss anything? Share in the comments or drop me a line on Twitter!

Alex T. Valencic is the Curriculum Coordinator for 21st Century Teaching and Learning in Freeport, Illinois. He has previously worked as a fourth grade teacher in Urbana, Illinois, for seven years and as a substitute teacher in central Illinois for three years. In addition to teaching, Alex enjoy playing tabletop games, hiking in Illinois’ many beautiful state parks, and showing off his fancy necktie knot skills. You can connect with him on Twitter at @alextvalencic or follow his blog at

My next post will take us back to introducing Zen time in your classroom!

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A Teacher's Guide

I am a National Board Certified educator currently teaching in Virginia. I have taught the following: English 9, 10, 11, and 12 (on academic, collaborative, and honors levels); Dual Enrollment English; Mass Communications, Yearbook, Newspaper, and Communications Technology. I have experience in five different school systems, four in Virginia and one in Maryland. I served as my school’s 2019 Teacher of the Year and was a top five finalist for the Teacher of the Year for Virginia Beach City Public Schools. I am passionate about recruiting and retaining quality educators in our public schools. Let me help you find your path to changing lives through teaching!

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  1. February 24, 2022

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