We all judge people on appearance. As much as people try to judge on person on their actual characteristics, appearance is one of the first things we notice, and we use this sensory information to form an immediate impression of that person. My question is, how do we judge teachers based on their appearance, and what inferences we make from their appearance to their ability.
Teachers, like everyone else in society, have different attire to others. Some are more formal than others in full suits, others more casual; and some dressed according to what subject they teach (for example PE teachers wearing sports-wear). I had a science teacher who always wore a white lab coat over their suit. Now despite never seeming to be in situations that require a lab coat, it did seem to make them look more qualified and generally a better educated teacher. What a teacher wears affects students perceptions about them (Herbon and Workman, 2000).
Workman (1984-85) found that teachers in professional clothing (such as suits/looking very smart) were rated as more intelligent, credible, and better prepared as teachers. Of course, the perception of their ability will eventually be replaced by their actual ability and results. This is the case for students who get repeated interactions with teachers, but parents who meet a teacher only a few times will most certainly judge them partly on appearance. Also, other characteristics may be judged from appearance, such as if they are strict, friendly, or even approachable.
Should it be then, if many students have to wear uniforms, that teachers should also. It will mean that they are generally perceived as similar and there will be no debate over appropriate clothing. Personally I think that teachers having their own appearance is perfectly acceptable as long as it is appropriate. It gives them character, individuality, and is a portrayal of their professional attitude that many will want to maintain.
This brings me onto a point of what is appropriate. Should it matter if a teacher has tattoos on show, or face piercings or wears jeans? Schools teachers seem to differ from lecturers in what they wear, possibly because lecturers are there to teach adults amid other tasks. It could be that, as teachers are role-models they should not have tattoos or face piercings as they are frowned upon professionally, but should a teacher’s appearance be judged so critically?