Hairshirts are so flattering

I read this review in the New York Times and was absolutely seething. It wasn't the author of the essay, Christopher Shea, so much as something he quoted from one of the books:

“Say goodbye to Mr. Chips with his tattered tweed jacket; today’s senior professors can afford Marc Jacobs.”

How DARE people with advanced degrees presume to earn enough to buy decent clothes. Not only am I sick of the attacks on academics and tenure (which seem to be fired off pretty regularly in the NYTimes), but that members of the professoriat seem to go along with them on this kind of issue. I don't recall taking a vow of poverty with my PhD. Nobody thinks twice about surgeons or lawyers having the money to buy nice outfits, but we're not supposed to? I do find it offensive that academics are somehow supposed to apologise for, or attempt to justify, even maintaining a middle-class lifestyle (which a graduate degree in most fields would easily offer).

The way it is connected in public perception to high tuition fees I understand, but for most universities, tuition is not their major revenue stream. I do agree that fees at some institutions have shot up to unsustainable levels, but it hasn't been flowing into the pockets of academics. In fact, I would be curious to see historic salary data for the twentieth century comparing other professions which have existed the whole time (military officers? clergymen?) with professors, and with the average per capita income. I strongly suspect that the salaries (even for those designer-label-wearing "senior professors") have FALLEN in real terms (as probably have those of army officers, but that's another post...).

And yes, I do have several of Mr Jacobs' creations in my wardrobe.