An autumnal exploration of the most dapper drip sported by the teachers of AHS
Over the course of September flourished a string of popular TikToks presenting outfits that their creators would wear if they were teachers. They were zany, they were creative —but ultimately uninformed.
So why not ask teachers themselves?
“I would say it very much depends on the day,” Mrs. Smith, AP English Language and Composition and ELD teacher, asserts when asked about her day-to-day sense of fashion. “There are times when I want to project a confident and professional demeanor and can certainly do that through wearing professional clothes.”
Famous for her lavish approach to dress-up days here at American, Mrs. Smith is the embodiment of our school’s spirit. “I certainly live for Spirit Week. Can’t tell you how excited I am that this year we have two Spirit Weeks this fall.”
Mrs. Smith finds that dressing up with spirit is as memorable for her students as it is for her. “I would say that some of the more outrageous outfits that I wear for school spirit help them [students] to appreciate the opportunity to add some fun to the school day,” Mrs. Smith says. “I have certainly surprised students before. I have had students I’ve worked with all year who introduced themselves to me during dress-up weeks when I don’t look at all like myself.”
One of Mrs. Smith’s most admired pieces is a long dress depicting a green sea turtle against the vibrant blue of the ocean, although its origins are rather surprising. “I stole the turtle dress from my sister this summer,” Mrs. Smith reveals with a laugh, proving that inspiration truly can come from anywhere (with or without permission).
One of the common trends that students notice among English teachers like Mrs. Smith declares that they often dress in a similar manner and, for mysterious and unknown reasons, always seem to wear a particular item: the cardigan.
Mrs. Smith, though, is happy to reveal all. “The cardigan is such an interesting element of the wardrobe. We find that classroom-wise [and] building-wise, depending on where you have to go on campus, we can’t control the temperature as well as you can control the ability to add a layer and take off the layer,” she explains. “A cardigan becomes much easier to work with than a sweatshirt that goes over your head and potentially affects hair. It’s a fascinating concept.…There’s nothing in the teacher preparation programs that say[s] you must dress this way, but it is interesting that we tend to gravitate especially toward that cardigan.”
But despite her long tenure here at American, Mrs. Martin, who teaches English 9 Honors and AP English Literature and Composition, never knew about this particular phenomenon. “No idea that was a joke!” she laughed on an overcast, mid-October morning.
That day, she took a simple and clean approach to the day’s dress with a black tunic lined with lace on its bottom edge under a cream-colored cardigan striped with black. “I enjoy a tunic. I think it’s versatile; I think it’s feminine.”
Mrs. Martin completed her outfit with a pair of skinny light pink jeans. “I am wearing jeans that are very reminiscent of the 80s with the zippers. We always called them pegged jeans—just the narrowing down at the ankle.”
Modest jewelry added a few shining touches to her outfit: three silver hoops in her left ear, two in the right, and two necklaces, one larger than the other, bearing a silver heart charm. What stood out the most about Mrs. Martin’s outfit, though, was the sophisticated statement made by her shoes, a pair of squeaky clean black Doc Martens.“I fell in love with Doc Martens last year. I always thought I was too old to wear Doc Martens, and once I started wearing them, I didn’t want to stop,” Mrs. Martin explains. “And so now I have three different pairs of Doc Martens.”
Overall, the clean-cut simplicity of her outfit was universally appealing, proving that fashion is truly timeless. “It took me 50 years to come around to it [the Doc Martens]. But I’ve decided I‘m not too old, and I’m gonna wear ‘em because I like them.”
A short stroll from Mrs. Martin’s room, and the eclectic fashion sported by Ms. Luong, who teaches English 9 Honors and English 12, awaits at room P-C. That same morning, she donned a colorful combination of textures and graphics, her tee bearing a flashy retro shirt from a favorite artist of hers. “I went to a Tom Jones concert yesterday night, and I got some merch from there. He’s not nearly as good-looking as he used to be only because he’s 82 now. But anyway, I’m glad the shirt has a young him on it.”
A green pleated skirt draped over her shoes. “I found this somewhere in a thrift store,” Ms. Luong clarifies. “I like muted colors. It’s what I tend to stick with. Sometimes I wear a lot of patterns but not so much.”
Nevertheless, despite her special pieces, Ms. Luong stays true to her bare essentials. “I wear the same socks everyday. White socks. And I have one of two [pairs of] shoes.…I got them from some dodgy Chinese website.”
An avid thrifter, Ms. Luong often garners much appreciation from her students for her impeccable sense of style. “I think my students compliment me quite often, which is funny, because they’ll say things [such as] ‘Hey, do you thrift?’ As if there’s a certain type of way that you look when you thrift clothes, but they’re always right—I do.”
Swing by the portables, and you might catch a glimpse of Mr. Oviatt, who teaches Living Earth, Anatomy, and Advanced Anatomy. His typical outfit usually consists of a pair of shorts topped off with a tee from his famous collection of shirts displaying science-related jokes. On this occasion, he wore a clever gray t-shirt reading, “I Like to Party and By That I Mean TeAcH Science,” with the word “teach” spelled out by chemical symbols.
Mr. Oviatt does not hesitate to divulge some of the cheeky responses to his clothing. “I’ve got a few that are more anatomy related, and my students say, ‘Oh, you need to wear that on the day of the test,’ so they can try to get some hints off of it.”
Known as a laidback and amiable teacher, Mr. Oviatt aims to ensure that students find his classroom to be a safe learning environment, and his silly shirts certainly help. “It leaves [students] open or allows them to feel more comfortable [when] approaching [me] because if nothing else, they can use that as a way to approach conversations or this or that, and so it gives them an opening or allows them to feel a little bit more comfortable.”
Meanwhile, in the rotunda, the mere utterance of the name conjures up images of lush suits, flashy jewelry, and deep, rich colors—Mr. Elam, who teaches U.S. History and World History, is known as one of the best-dressed on campus. “I would say that I am an incredibly obnoxious individual, and clothing is a really fun way to demonstrate that I am absolutely a shopaholic and clothing is my personal shopping vice,” he says.
Indeed, his outfit on October 12 was a precisely curated expression of himself: a soft maroon coat enveloping a summery floral button-down, a brown belt, a pair of green slacks, and plenty of jewelry. “I think that it’s really fun to have clothing themes, which has been really cool—like every Wednesday [I] wear pink because of Mean Girls, [and] on Monday I typically wear a suit because I like to start the week off looking good.”
Mr. Elam’s style has never failed to draw rapt attention. “Students last year caught on to my habits and were able to predict what I was going to wear to match [my habits] which I think was cool.…So if I’ve got fresh nail polish and rings and earrings and everything on, then you know that today, Mr. Elam has a lot of energy.”
Whether they intend to express themselves or put a smile on students’ faces, though, the AHS faculty wants to say that they appreciate the love for their fashion senses—jokes included.
“If I didn’t care what students thought I would show up in sweats and a hoodie every day,” Mr. Elam admits. “I also appreciate that a lot of students feel comfortable making fun of it. I’m colorblind and have a really hard time coordinating colors.…Usually students will call me out on it, and y’know what? It’s what I can do. It’s just fun to get the conversation going. It’s nice to be complimented. Nice to be recognized.”
“It also just makes me happy,” Mr. Elam explains. And in the end, isn’t the goal of fashion precisely that?
Silver rings and magenta-painted nails aglitter, Mr. Elam showcases his lush autumn outfit from the comfort of his classroom.