On my first day at HBS, now more than a year ago, our HBS section coordinator gave a typical start-of-the-year speech. His introductory talk to our HBS experience was followed by a Q&A session, during which one of my brave section mates asked if there was a dress-code for HBS classes. The HBS coordinator, a tenured professor at HBS, dressed himself in an impeccable tailor-made suit, replied that while he was very much so in favor of a dress-code for HBS students (preferably enforcing suits and ties in the process), unfortunately most of the HBS faculty did not share his point of view. There was no formal dress-code at HBS, though he politely asked us to show up for class being dressed in a decent way.
It is no surprise that a lot of the shirts and fancy shoes that most students wore on their first day of class were replaced by T-shirts and flip flops the following day. This made the day-to-day dress-code at HBS not that different from what people wear outside of class. Nevertheless, there are a couple of interesting facts about HBS clothing I would like to mention.
First of all, part of the student body enjoys having the school mentioned on their clothing. HBS-branded gear comes in different types and sizes and varieties. Most specialized HBS gear is sold by the HBS Student Organisation (check it out HERE), but can also easily be found in stores around Harvard Square. Others enjoy wearing the free branded sweat-shirts they got from [PUT CONSULTING FIRM NAME HERE] or the cool T-shirts from [PUT TECH COMPANY NAME HERE].
Second, there is the Section Gear – a proud symbol of belonging and an ideal way to show your colors. It includes fancy items like sunglasses, hats, T-shirts and sport outfits. Section gear tends to be managed through the section leadership and can thus exclusively be bought by section members and their spouses/children. Although it seems that the occasional bear has found a way to get some of it as well.
And then finally, there are the cultural differences in clothing – here’s my chance to dig into stereotypes. Americans tend to wear sneakers to class, Europeans can be trusted to show up in fancy shoes. The Latin students get the price for being most ‘classy’. The Asian student body is too diverse to categorize. One thing is for sure, these differences don’t always go unnoticed. In the above picture, some students were mocking a French’s student love for scarfs. A classic!
In summary, MBA students can wear whatever they want to class. But one thing that’s definitely true is that we don’t see the nice ties and jackets that were common to HBS students back in the seventies. As my first-year section coordinator would say: Those were the days…