By Guest Contributor J. Brendan Shaw

Academic conferences can be super stressful – you are coming together with scholars in your field, presenting papers that are often nascent ideas and last minute inspirations – and as I’ve written on here previously I prefer to navigate these kinds of professional spaces in an outfit I feel comfortable in. But, at a conference I feel more of a push to look “professional” or like an “adult.”

I was at the annual national conference for MELUS (The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States) in Charleston, South Carolina. In between reuniting with some good friends, eating amazing food (TOMATO BREAD PUDDING), I also presented a portion of a chapter from my dissertation.

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In order to look and feel confident, I went with a somewhat buttoned up look (for me) – a purple button up from Frank and Oak paired with a grey wool jacket from Gap – I bought this jacket on sale in college and for a long time never wore it since it seemed too big and it made me feel like a magician. Recently, it’s become my go-to conference jacket – it dresses up an outfit, it’s light but warm, it’s neutral colored and it packs easily. I finished this off with dark blue skinny jeans (also from the Gap) – I know they look black in the snap but that was bad lighting. I think nice jeans can easily look dressy for men as long as it’s not poorly fitted and the denim isn’t super distressed or faded/ “distressed.” For shoes I wore my trusty black Doc’s which have a nice thick sole and are so comfy.

Along with personal comfort, conferences are also places where you spend the bulk of your time sitting and listening and so you need to be comfortable so your body aches aren’t distracting you from the awesome ideas being share. And of course, you need to look hip, cool, trendy and like you’re ready to get a drink if that scholar crush of yours decides to deign to invite you.

12751832_10103426076412369_1495210775_oJ. Brendan Shaw is a PhD candidate who alternates between trying to finish his dissertation and having dance parties in coffee shops. His research looks at Black women’s cultural productions since the Civil Rights Movement and the uses of technology to express queer desire. He would like you to listen to “Desperado” from Rihanna’s Anti and see if you can keep from grinding just a little bit. His style inspirations include Google image searches and his treasured box of 64 Crayola crayons.  You can see his departmental page here and read his occasional thoughts about music, pop culture, and identity on his blog the song not traveled.  Tweet Brendan @jbrendanshaw