Grad Hygiene

I have made some comment on the subject of personal grooming in graduate shul, but the “PhD” cartoon [Link]

recently restarted memory chain traces.

I should commence by noting that during my college years there were major differences from campus to campus as well as from region to region. For example, the party shul of the campus of the Black Warrior was in general neat and fashionable. There was a dress code, along the lines of everything strategically reproductive covered plus feet. Women could wear sandals in the summertime but the practice was frowned upon since hose were de rigeur. In fact the dress code was stronger on women: blouse and skirt or dress, hose, shoes, no slacks or pants or shorts except when on the way to PE class or in transit to/from home. Men were required to cover chests except during athletic activities and shoes were required. Socks were optional as a fashion statement except in laboratory. Fungus was rampant. Oh! And everyone had cut, combed, even styled hair. The women rose every morning two hours before first class to lacquer their hair and struggle on foundation garments (not sure if they were required or not – ask not the question if you can’t handle the answer.) Most men got haircuts from the barber shop in the Union building next door to the book store. Only don’t try on Tuesday or Thursday mornings; the queue is long of ROTC students getting passable for drill.

As a nerd I got to do some things differently. For one, I wore socks – I knew all about foot fungus, and I wore Hush Puppy suede loafers – gray when new – instead of polished Bass Wejuns or tassel loafers. As the year progressed the shoes got lots of little black dots on the front part – drops of acid burned nap. When the sole wore out in the middle and the upper got too thin, I had to buy a new pair. Pants and shirts, and underwear were cotton and worn straight out of the laundry bundle. In the warmer half of the year a lack of ironing was unnoticeable after a couple of hours.

When I went off to graduate shul at the campus of the Boneyard I found out about cold. And living on a teaching assistant stipend. So my cotton pants got swapped for wool and my Hush Puppy loafers for Hush Puppy boots. And I got a double wool coat. And haircuts decreased to twice a year to keep me warm in the winter and save on money. I got a new understanding of the Russian invasion of Finland.

But the campus had a different code as well. So far as I could tell, there was no dress code for women. With co-ed dorms (alternating floor by gender then as a sop to parental Puritanism) the whole thing made little sense. Besides all that mattered in winter – the six months of the year when the ground was grey with snow and ice – was warm. So everyone looked that way, even the fraternity/sorority types. No bare feet in tassel loafers here. But I shaved every morning. That was a wake up treat, using boiled water from the stove. It made up for the floating ring of ice in the toilet – don’t be so asleep as to sit down with the seat up!

Then back south to the campus of the Tennessee. This made a big change because full time employment went with this move. The dress code was that of the nerd workplace so my enhanced salary went to suits and ties and boots with zippers on the side. Gave me an abiding hatred of ‘professional dress code’ and an abiding love of comfort. But anyway, as a result no slacking of grooming when it came dissertation time. The only slack off there was the commutes between typist and committee. This was before word processors of any form other than human. If I were doing all that today in LaTeX I would consider laying off the hygiene, to annoy the committee into speeding up, if nothing else.

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