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Does a doctor's formal workplace attire positively influence patient perception?

M3 India Newsdesk Feb 16, 2020

You must have heard about researches suggesting that what doctors wear can influence patients’ trust. So what kind of clothes should you wear; how should you dress up?

What you wear on duty (in non-operative settings) reflects your sense of responsibility towards your patients and profession. A 2018 report by Sachdeva S, Taneja N and Dwivedi N, published in the MAMC Journal of Medical Sciences, concluded that the majority of patients surveyed in an OPD setting of a government hospital in India preferred to see a male doctor in a formal attire.

So formal wear is ideal, however, how you put it all together also matters. There are various aspects of your outfit that can create an impression you did not intend for.

Our dressing guide for doctors takes care of all the thinking you need to put behind dressing up appropriately, so you create the right impression, while also respecting patients’ sensibilities.

Why pay attention to dressing for duty

Another study conducted across Japan sought to understand if and how a physician’s attire could affect patient’s confidence in the doctor. The findings of the report published on the NCBI website state that doctors’ attires indeed have a significant impact on patients’ confidence in their doctor.

Also, your interns and staff look up to you; so your clothes should match the dignity of your role. It is only natural that the hospitals you are employed with expect you to embody their culture, ethics and standards; the way you dress up is a big part of that.

Dressing guide

For weekdays, you must wear formals like any other white-collared person. It may or may not include a tie, however, it cannot lean towards casual or anything glamorous. Depending on your seniority or the hospital’s expectations, you may have to dress up in a suit every day, however, senior doctors practicing in rural areas may just add a tie to their formal shirt and trousers.

You may opt for smart casuals at work on Saturdays only if your hospital allows it. You can also choose smart casuals for out-of-the-city seminars, unless the dress code states otherwise.

As for selecting your clothes, here are some helpful dos and don’ts, and tips:


In all scenarios, full-sleeved shirts, neatly tucked in are ideal. However, given the Indian weather, half-sleeved shirts under your doctor’s coat should be ok, too.


  • Ideal colours: plain, solid colours – dark (except black and maroon) or light hues, with a weave for texture or without
  • Patterns if any, limit it to pinstripes


  • No in-the-eye colours
  • No wearing prints such as, checks, paisleys and psychedelic patterns
  • Nothing with a shiny weave
  • Don’t choose linen fabric as it can crumple up bad

Tip: White shirts are great for meetings and seminars. However, avoid wearing it if you are expected to wear the doctor’s coat over it.


You need pants that are neither too tight, nor too loose – they should be made for a comfortable fit. The hem of the pants should fall till the top of your shoes.


  • Ideal colours: Colours that contrast well with your shirt, but limit it to standard colours, such as black, beige, grey, navy or dark blue, and brown


  • Don’t select light and bright colours for trousers
  • Pants should not have any eye-catching patchwork or stitching
  • If you choose to wear denims, ensure you wear a modest pair, without any embellishments and wash (any grunginess), or a worn look


Regardless of the season, it is advised you wear a vest under your shirt.


  • Prefer neutral colours like grey, white and black and pair them with shirts that don’t make them pop
  • Buy absorbent, high-quality V-neck vests


  • Avoid vests made from synthetic blends.


If you must wear a suit to work every day, ensure you have a perfectly fitted one. You may not have a bespoke suit for everyday but wearing a custom-made suit is a must.


  • Your suits must be single-breasted with two buttons
  • Stick to standard colours
  • Have more than one blazer ready to wear with your pairs of dress trousers
  • A suit with a light pattern can be worn for less formal settings


  • Avoid anything that looks flashy, such as any colour on velvet fabric

Winter wear

Choose elegant-looking sweaters with a desired length of sleeves. If you intend to be wearing a sweater for long hours, without your white coat, you may pick a good cardigan. Choose a sweater that is easily removable, like a button-up sweater, in case you have to put on your coat every now and then.


  • Go for standard colours such as, white, grey, blue or black
  • Pick something with a simple weave or a pattern (nothing eye-catching)

Tip: If possible, go for woolen blazers or overcoats instead of sweaters, as these provide better warmth, look neat, and can be easily removed without messing up your shirt or hair. Just do up your hair and shirt if you have to remove your sweater at work as the static in wool can make your hair appear undone and your shirt creased.



Smart, polished leather shoes for formal wear are a given. What you need to keep in mind, however, is that your shoes should have low heels and non-skid soles, so as to prevent any slippage and any possible musculoskeletal disorders.

Your pairs of formal leather shoes and other semi-formal shoes for Saturdays must have features that make them resistant to sharp objects (especially for days of surgery). Look for either non-pliable leather (not too soft and flexible) or those with an inner canvas lining.


  • As for styles of shoes, pick formal, leather, laced shoes without any embellishments for work days
  • Choose Oxford-style dress shoes for official meetings or seminars
  • Buy pairs of classic Oxford Brogue-style shoes for Saturdays or when the dress code at an event is semi-formal


  • Avoid loafers, floaters, open sandals (e.g. Crocs), and sneakers


Don’t deviate from dress socks for work days! Pick pairs that match or complement the colour of your trousers.


It is best to choose a belt that matches the colour of your shoes. But keep it simple and non-flashy. Must-have belt colours: black and brown.


Ties should be classy and should complement your shirt or the colour of your blazer. Ensure the fabric is good-quality and thick so it doesn’t sway much.


  • A woven knit tie is perfect, its weave gives the fabric the right kind of hold and enables you to tie perfect knots.
  • The classic Windsor knot is most suited to your profession


  • The colours shouldn’t be flashy and bold
  • Synthetic material is a complete no-no
  • Avoid shiny, synthetic material


  1. Tie the knot without too much bulk if you have a narrow face, a bulky knot can make your head look smaller.
  2. The tie knot should look perfectly symmetrical and sit well between the collars, near your throat.
  3. A little dent below the knot is good as it gives the tie a little lift to make it fall well.

Cuff links, collar pins and tie clips

You have the freedom to choose these accessories as per your taste and liking. However, do not sport anything that sends out strong messages. For example, nothing that reflects your opinion on politics, denotes sexual orientation, or comes across as funky or cool. Simply put, keep it simple and elegant.

This article was originally published on October 11, 2019.


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