It is late in 1986 and I am standing in my white uniform top and blue long pants, in front of the Director of Physiotherapy. She has called me into her office to discuss my intentions to resign to go overseas in early 1987. As we chat, her eyes move downward and she becomes fixated on the space between the end of my trousers and my shoes.
“Are you wearing odd socks? ”
In my first year after graduating, I had taken to wearing brightly coloured mismatching socks under my uniform. Retrospectively, I think that this was a statement of individualism rather than rebellion.
On reviewing webpages of physio practices and hospitals, little has changed in the dress code of Physiotherapists, in 35 years. The pages are adorned with photos of clinicians in traditional navy or royal blue, pants and or tops. Especially polo tops. These have clearly become associated with our profession and along with Exercise Physiologists; Fitness trainers and students of these disciplines, this is what you will see as the main dress code in practices and gyms across Australia and New Zealand.
It is easy to get up in the morning and pull on the blue polo. They wash well and do not need ironing. Perhaps our dress code, has become associated with perceptions of professionalism, trust and meeting expectations of our clients.
Or perhaps our deference to a dress code is foundered on tradition and is a testament to our conservatism, slowness to change and lack of innovative thinking?
We are still working on the “Odd Socks” problem in our practice. I am wondering, however, if you adopted a different dress style, what this might say to others about your practice? Will it diminish your professionalism or will it help you to stand out from an increasingly crowded profession?. Does the trust that your client’s have in you, come entirely from the historical association of dress?
Had you considered the non-specific benefits of a dress style that sets you apart? Perhaps you will be seen as different, innovative, creative and fun? The feel and look could be very different from the tried and true, solid blue and white.
Back in 1986, my odd socks were not an overt sign of rebellion or just a desire to put a mark on my individuality. The odd socks proved an identifier and often a conversation starter. They were a point of difference in a world where everything looked the same.
By the way, the Director of Physio smiled and said to me:
“I will catch up with you in a week or two about your plans”
Dianna Howell Cert mgr MIML MAPA