Burt, Professor, Advocate, Artist
Q: Why is dressing well important to you?
A: I’m on a mission, if you will. When I was growing up, some other kids with disabilities came up to me and said, “Why don’t you dress handicapped?” And I said, “What are you talking about?” So most of my life I have tried to dress in a way that demonstrates you can look great and have a body that’s packaged differently from everyone else’s.
Q: How do you dress on the weekends, or on your down-time?
A: Unless I’m just going grocery shopping, I’m still very conscious of presenting a put-together look. I will wear one of the button down shirts, but no tie. I prefer to make a statement saying, “Hey, here I am. I look good. Anybody can look good like this.”
Q: What do you do for work?
A: I’m a retired university professor. I’ve helped out the MBTA. Last year I did three different projects with MIT, designing adaptive equipment, I’ve worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield. I’ve kind of been around. I think I’m trying to make a statement not just in what I wear, but what I do. I believe that it’s really important to see what a person is rather than what they aren’t. I’m focused on emphasizing people’s abilities.
Q: Is there a connection between your advocacy work and the way you dress while you’re doing those duties?
A: Yes. It’s a statement about how we’re all normal. We all have something to offer. And not to fall into stereotypes, which is so hard.
Q: Are there any customizations you prefer?
A: A button down collar, placket, and no pocket. A monogram on the inside of the collar with my initials.
Q: Why the button down collar?
A: I do that aesthetically. I don’t have broad shoulders, but when you put a button down on me with a custom fit it gives more of a balanced look.
Q: Where does your sense of dress come from?
A: Very early on my mother let me choose my own clothes. I had my own sense of style. I’ve always been conscious about the image I presented as a person with a disability.
Q: What does custom mean to you?
A: I have to get my sleeves shortened. When you take something off the rack for alteration, you do not know if they know the proper way to shorten a sleeve. It’s nice to find a company where people don’t question the measurement and say, “That can’t be right, no one’s got arms that short.”
Q: What other interests or hobbies do you have?
A: Downhill skiing. I’ve been white water rafting. I am an artist. I’ve down jewelry, ceramics, mixed media. I have to be doing something where I’m creating. Right now I’m creating a new logo for a program here in Massachusetts. And I play the piano.
Q: Is piano something you’ve done for a long time, or picked up recently?
A: I’ve done it for a long time. You can imagine I was a kid with lots of energy. And so one day, mom sat me down at the piano and taught me a three-note song called Sweetly Sings the Donkey. The next day I was playing the Star Spangled Banner, with chords.
Q: Does being an artist influence the way you dress?
A: I’m a very classic dresser, so I try to buy things that are not going to be out of style in a year. I think that my artistic sense works into what I wear. I have a real eye for details and how everything fits together.