I have a hoodie with Dalhousie University written on it (where I used to work), but I now work at Nankai University.

Question: Is it significantly inappropriate to wear clothes bearing the name of University X, when working as an official employee at University Y?

I'm thinking I'm overthinking this, and it's a case of "no one cares". Or, if someone does care, it would only be a momentary blip. But I'm not 100% certain.

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    In that case i'd say that while wearing your Dalhousie hoodie will definitely come across more negatively than positively in your new Uni (I was teased for wearing my BSc alumni hoodie during my MSc), your situational circumstances dictate that "ain't no one got time for that". Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 2:38
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    @user8001: One key difference is that Pepsi and Coca-Cola are engaged in a zero-sum competition to sell cola. They are very nearly substitutes for each other, and every time someone buys a Pepsi, Coca-Cola loses a sale (since they could expand almost limitlessly without changing their business model). Actively expressing any connection to or appreciation of Pepsi would thus be viewed as disloyalty by Coca-Cola. This is not generally true at universities, and I imagine nobody at Nankai has any feelings of ill will or bitter competition towards Dalhousie. Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 3:42
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    One could argue it's mildly inappropriate, but in no universe is it SIGNIFICANTLY inappropriate.
    – user37208
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 4:12
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    As far as I know, no one outside of the USA cares about these things. Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 13:05
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    @sgroves: "school rivalries are part of the culture there (just like in any country)" - maybe I am oblivious to a part of the local culture in my place, but I perceive the concept of "school rivalries" as something distinctly alien that does not exist in the universities that I have been to in my country. Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 12:35

5 Answers 5


There are definitely cases in which it would stand out as strange or inappropriate. You should be careful in cases of a rivalry, since that may be viewed as a significant statement even if you meant nothing by it. (I'm thinking of Harvard vs. Yale or Illinois vs. Iowa. Athletic rivalries are particularly troublesome, since students may consider the clothing a sign of active support for the rival university. No reasonable person could take offense, but not everyone is reasonable.)

It's also risky spending too much time wearing clothing emblazoned with a much more prestigious name than the university you are currently at. You don't want to look like you are ostentatiously reminding everyone that you graduated from Harvard, unlike the riffraff around you.

I don't think either of these will be an issue for wearing a Dalhousie University hoodie at Nankai University. If this were in the U.S. or Canada, I don't think it would be a problem at all: the worst case scenario is occasional good-natured teasing, and even that's far from certain. However, I have no experience with how it might be viewed in China, so it's worth looking into that specifically if you have reason to fear the reactions might be different.

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    Iowa vs. ISU is the only Iowa rivalry that will get you angry glares.
    – njbooher
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 4:20
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    I think you've found the key point here. They're not adversaries (like the Coke vs. Pepsi example). If anything, my relationships with the two universities makes them partners. Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 4:25
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    I'm in China (but not Chinese) and my impression is that rivalries are much more low-key here than in the US. Then again, Chinese people are typically much more concerned with image, so I could imagine some high-level bureaucrat, or even your direct supervisor or coworkers, objecting to the shirt because they think it will give a bad impression, even though in reality nobody actually cares. (Also, even in the US, rivalries are pretty chill except for some big state universities with major athletic programs. You wouldn't get that much bad attention for wearing a Yale shirt at Harvard.)
    – David Z
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 12:31
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    Illinois vs Iowa --- I think you misspelled "Michigan".
    – JeffE
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 12:39
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    "not everyone is reasonable" - and there goes my hope for the universitary educational system ... Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 21:37

In general, research and education is one big (read: global) network. Unlike it may be the case with commercial entities, competition usually happens on friendly terms (you try to be better, but your goal is not to make the competitor disappear) and it does not preclude collaboration.

A few members of one university might get caught up in feelings of rivalry, but I cannot imagine that to have any real effects towards people with links to the so-called "rival" university. We're talking about universities, not elementary schools.

With this in mind, any obvious links to other places (e.g. clothing from another university) seem positive; they underline that the lecturer has gathered some experience at various places, and thereby, indirectly, imply that the university has a well-connected staff with diverse backgrounds.

In the described situation, one thing to note is, however, that there should be some connection to the institution advertised on the clothes. As described above, when I see staff at my university with clothes advertising a different university, I would consider that positive (=> "people with experience and connections"), but if I found out they have not actually been to that place, I might feel a bit cheated, even though I wouldn't care otherwise.

  • Agree that it is a friendly gesture to wear logo apparel from affiliated institutions. For instance if Humboldt State University had a regular semester-abroad arrangement with Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.
    – MarkHu
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 21:57
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    The first sentence of your answer gave me some warm feelings.
    – svavil
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 0:36

If there are hot rivalries between the two universities, then it might be taken as offensive or rude.

I am not familiar with the universities you mentioned, but if you were talking about Texas Tech vs. TAMU or Oklahoma University vs. Oklahoma State then I would say definitely wear the local colors.

Further, as a faculty member - you are almost expected to promote the university brand; and it might seem as odd that a faculty member is wearing "opposing" colors - again, the degree of animosity you would face would depend on the degree of competition between the institutions.


My experience is that faculty members don't take "rivalries" very seriously, so as a faculty member you should feel free to wear clothing from any university you want. The one caveat (noted by other posters) is that it is a bit lame if you wear clothing from a prestigious university you have never had any affiliation with. This is actually good advice for everyone; I have run enrichment activities for high school students, and I roll my eyes whenever I see a high school student wearing a Harvard t-shirt.

Mostly I'm answering to share the following anecdote, which illustrates how much you can get away with. When I was an instructor at MIT, I gave a talk at Caltech. As a sort of gag gift, they gave me an anti-MIT t-shirt (it says MIT on the front and "because not everyone can get into Caltech" on the back). I used to wear it when I administered exams. People were amused, but as far as I can tell no one was genuinely offended.


I think it is appropriate to wear clothes bearing the name of University X. No one can ask you to wear what you do not want to wear, with a few exceptions.

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    There is a difference between "no one can ask that you don't wear this" and "no one will think negatively of you / it will be appropriate to wear this". You should also probably be aware that many places have dress codes, from the uniform of the fast food employee to the suit/tie/... dress code of corporate environments. It's not just the army and the police.
    – user9646
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 14:05
  • @NajibIdrissi in some cultures (such as the usa), people don't worry if people think negatively of them because of what they wear, because it really doesn't matter. at schools in the us, people wear what they want, and no one cares. of course dress codes may apply at some jobs, but certainly not at schools.
    – user428517
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 0:09
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    @sgroves Are you seriously saying that in the USA people don't worry if others think negatively of them because of what they wear (your first sentence)...? You're deluded.
    – user9646
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 8:38
  • @NajibIdrissi no, people might care, but it doesn't matter. as in, there won't be any consequences for when you wear another school's shirt. so, do it if you want to.
    – user428517
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 16:16

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