The Importance of Being Kempt

Early modernist here so I can legitimately use the term “kempt” whereas those poor folks who don’t at least mentally reside for a good chunk of the year in premodern texts are stuck with only the inelegant “unkempt”. (Check out this fun explanation of the shift in the decline of kempt and the rise of unkempt.)

Bardiac posted about pre-semester rituals – hers include a hair cut which is top of my to-do list for Tuesday. Shaggy and Scooby I fail to get hair cuts during term time so if I don’t do this now, I’ll look a lot like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo within a month or two, minus the stubble, of course!

I don’t aspire to the fashionista heights of blogworthy professorial fashion but I do believe in the power of kempt. Whether you’re rocking the jeans and turtlenecks in the manner of the late Steve Jobs or something a bit more fashion-forward, it behooves a professor to have clothes that are clean and relatively tidy. I’ve culled the wardrobe this summer, ditching the threadbare jeans and shirts along with the items that just never worked (why did I think that pale tan was ever a good colour on me? It isn’t!). I added a few new tops and a skirt or two.

But the number one rule of being kempt? Forgoing those messy condiments during term-time lunches. No more soy sauce, ketchup or, heaven forbid!, mustard. Because there’s nothing more guaranteed to mess up your look than a mustard stain on your shirtfront.

How do you keep it together when in front of the classroom or out in the field?



Filed under academe, personal, teaching

6 responses to “The Importance of Being Kempt

  1. meg

    I am capable of spilling just about anything on my rack, so I keep a large necklace — big shiny distracting chrome medallion-thingies — in my desk drawer. Even if it doesn’t cover up the stain, it generally distracts the eye so much that the stain is barely noticeable.

    • J Liedl

      That’s positively inspired! I will hunt around in my jewellery box to find the perfect piece to wait in my desk for when it’s needed.

  2. I do the same trick as meg, but with one of those long, thin scarves that can be manipulated in endless ways to cover the odd spillage. I’m also a great believer in having one really good, well-cut jacket/ blazer. I have a gorgeous dark orange wool number that has been doing great service for several seasons. It can even make a pair of slightly scruffy jeans look stylish.

    • J Liedl

      That’s also brilliant! I might have to shop around for something like that because I weeded out most of my old scarves the other year. Those that the cats hadn’t weeded out for me, actually.

  3. Mark R. Stoneman

    Thank you for the word “kempt”. That is a standard I often get close to on teaching days, and now I have a respectable label I can attach to it that has a fair chance of crowding out any others that might come to mind when I look in one of those huge bathroom mirrors at school.

    • J Liedl

      All bets are off at the end of the day. If we’re approaching unkempt, we deserve a break after all that hard work!