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How to Dress Like a Psychologist

Richard Hammersley, Department of Psychology, University of Hull

As psychologists, we should be well aware of the primacy of first impressions and clothes
have a strong influence on first impressions. If you want to be a psychologist then you
should learn to dress like a psychologist, which is not easy because few guidelines are
available, at first sight psychologists dress however they like and the traditional academic
tweed jacket and slacks went out about 19651.

The following classification is based on over 40 years of participant observation. Most

male psychologists veer towards one of the following looks, livening them up with the
optional accessories listed at the end. Choose one of these looks and you will
immediately fit in to any psychology department in the country. Different disciplines in
psychology do not stick to any one look; it seems to be a matter of personal choice. So
for example not all neuropsychologists use that look.

As a male psychologist myself, I have held off finishing this paper for about 20 years,
hoping that I would be able to classify female psychologists dress codes too. I am afraid
that I still cannot because women tend to adhere more to the caprices of fashion and
greatly complicate the lazy participant observers task by often dressing entirely
differently on different days, sometimes for no apparent reason at all. All I have been able
to come up with is that most female psychologists position themselves in dress
somewhere along three dimensions: Smart versus casual; Gendered versus non gendered;
Fashionable versus unfashionable. For instance many Clinical Psychologists in training
end up wearing dark coloured trouser suits which are relatively non gendered, smart and
just over the mid line towards fashionable. To dress less neutrally than that requires
greater confidence in ones professional competencies and persona than most trainees
have. But, again, unlike men, most women sometimes completely switch look just
because they feel like it. It helps that generally speaking they get fewer sarkie comments
from their colleagues should they do this. If you are woman, a psychologist, and need to
dress professionally then the advice here seems sensible: http://

Not all women in Universities feel the need to follow such guidelines, but most working
with clients or patients do.

Except among visiting North Americans who have been watching too much Inspector Morse before
entering the country.


The Seven basic male looks
The Neuro-something-something-ist!

Clarks shoes2 or desert boots.

Funny socks theyll be white, or have the Simpsons on them, or something.

Jeans, or Chinos to be posh.

Traditional male shirting of the stripy or button-down collar variety, but not the tie
that Prince Philip would add.

Jumper (optional) either in a solid, boring colour, or in a mad pattern.

Jacket varied but guaranteed waterproof and he will have stood beneath the
shower to test it.

The Londoner3!

Traditional lace-up shoes of some kind, brogues or wingtips are good.

Socks in black or dark blue.

A white shirt, or something almost as boring (e.g. denim).

Chinos and a linen jacket or

A crumpled linen or cotton suit.

Ties are optional, but cartoon ties out of Tie Rack are prohibited.

Jumpers are banned.

Old-fashioned proofed raincoats are to be worn to keep out the elements.

The Clinical!


You can do neuro-whatsit or Londoner on the shoe front, or even venture as far as

Self-coloured socks, like red, blue or green.

A blue suit, or a beige type jacket and trousers that is nearly a suit, or a solid
coloured sports jacket and (you guessed) blue or beige trousers.

A button down shirt in a solid colour.

A personality type tie well were all different at the end of the day

They do not wear coats much they get straight in their cars cos theyre in a

The Im still the same guy I was when I was when I was doing my PhD!


Cheap-looking boots or shoes out the sports shop, even if they cost 130 and can
cover five leagues in one bound whilst trampling polar bears.

Thanks Bruce Charleton.

Having lived in London is not actually necessary its an aspiration.


You cant see the socks: There might not be any; there could be serious darning

Jeans are likely but any kind of trousers will do as long as they are neither pressed
nor fit.

A tee-shirt but the slogans are by this stage in the career small or non-existent.

Any jumper will be ill-fitting, black and have holes in it.

Leather jackets are good, but fleeces will do, or a very old tweed jacket.

The Working-class hero!

Black shoes

Black Socks

Black Jeans

Black shirt or tee shirt, or maybe white if the ironings up to date

Black Jacket

Tie? Eff off Mate!

The Mover and shaker!

Lace-up shoes

Black socks

A dark blue suit

White or pale shirt

A quiet tie

A waterproof coat of some kind

The All-American4!

Those comfortable shoes that you can bend so the toe meets the heel

White socks

Slacks in one of the earth tones like sand or mud

Short-sleeved shirt in cream or pale blue with the collar pressed flat open

No tie

A sports coat, as the Americans say, in a light wool-polyester mix, but it is rarely
actually worn.

Optional accessories

Managers may wear braces (suspenders) in bright patterns.

More chronologically challenged psychologists may wear tweed jackets.

Recent PhD graduates may wear grey, perhaps even cargo pants.

Of course you dont have to be American -- its an aspiration too -- and most American psychologists in
Britain use one of the other looks.


The styling of spectacles is yet to be resolved conclusively: Current thinking is that

heavy glasses are best.

Facial hair: Psychologists seem to either prefer the full beaver or being clean
shaven. However there was a millenial outbreak of the postmodern ironic goatee.
Moustaches are liable to be misinterpreted5.

Hair may be of any length whatsoever.

Ties may be worn with the looks that exclude them, in which case the tie must not
match the rest of the clothes6.

Briefcases etc. are very varied, but the essential style advice is to carry a bag that does
not go with the rest of the look. The working-class hero might try an aluminium
briefcase, the mover and shaker maybe his old school bag.

Psychologists seem to like nice expensive leather belts that often look newer, and cost
more, than the rest of the ensemble. This may be due to attacks of post-conference
levity in the duty-free shop, or to the fact that, unlike other clothes, it is almost
impossible to ruin a leather belt by maltreatment and neglect.

Visible body piercings are limited to earrings. In the over-30s they generally suggest
nostalgia for the 60s: Behaviourism, R.D. Laing, Slide rules, Pre-postmodernism,
sexual liberation without feminist discourse, drugs as fun not fatality.

If you are going to a job interview, wear a suit. Some of the other looks irritate
recruitment panel members unnecessarily, even if they havent bothered.

5 Although

so is almost everything else if you let psychology loose on it.

Male academics favour additive principles of aesthetics. If a tie is nice, or was nice when received at
Christmas 1983, then logically wearing it adds to the niceness of the total ensemble.