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ACS National Meeting Dress Code

The national meeting program comprises over 400 pages of information, some of which is actually useful. It tells you where to see talks, what hotels to book, where to catch the bus, and how to find free food. One thing it does not tell you is what to wear—and I wish it would.

It’s high time for the ACS to either establish a dress code or at least provide guidance on the matter. Since I expect no such by-law will weave its way through the executive committee, I am taking it upon myself to set the rules. And they’re, like, totally official because this is the official blog of the official magazine of the ACS.

For some reason, dress codes are always set by what men are supposed to wear. (Women don’t wear sports jackets to “jacket-required” events, nor do they wear ties (of any color) to black-tie events.) I assume all women are just born with some innate conversion factor that lets them know what to do. With that in mind, I can boil down the official ACS National Meeting dress code to two simple rules:

Rule #1: Men’s shirts shall have collars.
Polo/golf shirts are acceptable. Jackets are optional. Ties are optional. I can’t fathom why you would want to wear a suit in Washington in August, but feel free. You’re truly hardcore. The only exception to the collar rule is that you may wear a T-shirt if it is of the cheesy chemistry variety (e.g., a periodic table of beer). Otherwise, no T-shirts. Stay classy, my friends. And under no circumstances may anyone wear a tank top. Ever.

Rule #2: Men shall not wear flip-flops.
Given the amount of walking that some people are forced into, sneakers are completely acceptable. Sandals are really pushing it and should generally be avoided. (I don’t care if it’s 95 degrees outside—men’s feet are gross.) Flip-flops are disrespectful and are strictly verboten.

That’s it, plain and simple. These rules go into effect starting with the 2010 meeting in San Francisco. Non-compliance will result in the confiscation of your meeting credentials and your being declared persona non grata at all ACS events for 18 months.

Please address all comments and complaints to the chairs of the OMG and WTF committees, which are co-sponsoring this initiative.

Image: Shutterstock


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  • Aug 21st 200912:08
    by Chemjobber

    And under no circumstances may anyone wear a tank top. Ever.

    Is this a problem during the sessions?

  • Aug 21st 200914:08
    by mitch

    I am pro-tank top. Don’t let old-man Bracher keep you down.

  • Aug 21st 200914:08
    by Paul

    Turn down that music and get off my lawn!

    I did not observe any tank tops, but I did see flip-flops and short pants. In fairness, my attire was not above reproach. On Wednesday, I wore brown shoes with black pants.

  • Aug 21st 200914:08
    by ACS-Girl

    Hi, I thought everybody was so dressed up in the ACS meeting. All the speakers were definitely wearing suit (might explain why the temperature inside was freezing) and most of the people were wearing better clothes than they would wear to academic labs. Overall all the women were dressed up nicely and some of them were ready for evening parties. Rest were not bad at all. I guess the attire of the folks in the academic labs is so bad that sometimes even wearing a clean T-shirt with untorn jeans is dressy. :-)

  • Aug 21st 200915:08
    by John

    I saw two instances of quite inappropriate dress:

    1-Woman in a t-shirt and jeans. The t-shirt had a picture of a moose on it and said “nice rack.”

    2- tall, thin man in skin tight white t-shirt wearing capri pants (balloon capris?) with picture of what I think were marijuana leaves all over them

    lots of sandals. I am not offended by that, per se, but was wearing a suit (job hunting) the whole time. Had several discussions with my hosts about the interesting dress of some of the participants.

  • Aug 21st 200915:08
    by Elizabeth

    I was just surprised when I showed up to the YCC’s 35th Anniversary dinner cruise in the same semi-professional clothes I’d been wearing all day at the meeting (button-up collared shirt, grey pants, black shoes, briefcase in tow) to discover that all the other women my age had apparently gone back to their hotels between the sessions and the dinner cruise and put on cute little cocktail dresses. It never occurred to me to pack a cocktail dress for the ACS meeting. Truly I have learned a valuable lesson.

  • Aug 21st 200916:08
    by Paul

    I agree that the vast majority of people at the conference are dressed (too?) well, especially the women and people who speak german. I think that the ACS (so people think it’s kind of official) should provide some guidance that everyone should feel free to leave jackets at home and to wear sneakers (especially when the shuttle service is scaled back). That said, people can go too far. That ‘nice rack’ shirt is over the line. (The line is officially set at shirts that have suggestive statements about SN2 attacks.)

  • Aug 21st 200916:08
    by mitch

    I am pro-suggestive statements about SN2 attacks.

  • Aug 24th 200905:08
    by the other mitch

    I saw a dude wearing a tank top at the meeting and many people wearing flip flops. Both are not nearly dressy enough for a meeting of this type. The tank top is just strange and the flip flops make for noisy distractions as they walk down aisles during talks.

  • Aug 24th 200910:08
    by JoAnna

    i thought a lot of people looked a little underdressed too. at first i thought it was just the undergraduate students, but then i saw people who were clearly not students dressed in jeans & tshirts. i had a button down shirt & a skirt with heels. i was ashamed when my feet hurt so much (my bag got too heavy) that i had to switch to my flip flops for the last hour or so. at least they matched my skirt?

  • Aug 24th 200917:08
    by Paul

    That’s actually not a problem. There is a double standard that operates in your benefit, in that women can wear flip flops in many situations where men can’t. A blouse and skirt with flip-flops is perfectly acceptable dress. One of my presentations was a 3.5-hour poster session. I was amazed that several women showed up in heels—that’s a long time to stand in uncomfortable footwear. That said, high heels definitely look good.

  • Aug 25th 200908:08
    by Carmen Drahl

    Melanie Sanford rocked red heels during her presentation at the National Organic Symposium a few months back. I don’t remember whether she wore them all day. Since sneakers are acceptable ACS meeting footwear, for your consideration: high heels with sneaker technology.

  • Aug 25th 200911:08
    by Linda Wang

    Yikes, ($300!) that’s a high price to pay for comfort!

  • Aug 25th 200923:08
    by Paul

    I remember when Easy Spirit commercials were on television all the time: “Looks like a pump, feels like a sneaker…”

    I saw one person at the meeting who was barefoot. It was in a hotel, not the CC. I hope there was a reasonable explanation.

  • Aug 26th 200908:08
    by David Boldridge

    Gee – I went to hear the talks, not to look at the dress of the participants.

  • Aug 26th 200910:08
    by Paul

    Wait, you were the guy who went to the talks? I think I saw you.

  • Apr 11th 201017:04
    by wolfie

    As I predicted : Bengu will have her second Ph.D. sooner than Paul. Sorry.

    Question : what is a Ph.D. from Harvord or the Whitesides lab worth ??

    Dr. Bengü Sezen
    Group Leader
    Yeditepe University
    Date of graduation: 18 August 2009


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