Although there is not a JDP dress code per se, the student should be aware that there are certain expectations regarding appropriateness.  While students are in class, what they wear is not generally a concern.  However, when a student sees a client for therapy or assessment, running subjects or otherwise representing the program at various locations throughout the city as well as the Doctoral Training Facility professional attire is most appropriate.  Be aware that clients/subjects see our students as professionals and it is expected that they will dress accordingly.  Students need not follow prescribed rules or invest in expensive clothing, but they must use common sense about what is considered professional dress.  If students are uncertain about what is appropriate, there are faculty, staff and other students to ask.  Being mindful of this issue may save one the embarrassment of having it called to their attention.

Professional Appearance

Graduate school is a time of transition from the role of student to that of professional. In addition to all of the other skills one needs to learn to successfully make that transition, students must understand how their appearance can impact the range of professional roles graduate students fill both during and after graduate school. Regardless of whether you believe it is correct or not, a student’s appearance sends a message about their level of competence, trustworthiness, dependability, and other desirable professional attributes. It can influence the degree of respect others will have for him/her.  Because of others’ reactions to a person’s appearance, it can impact an individual’s effectiveness and ability to adequately represent him/herself or the program, and as a result can potentially impact outcomes. While some people portray this as personal rights issue, the concern here is not whether or not you have the “right” to look as you choose.  Rather the issue is what the impact is of the choices you make.  Note that there will be places where you do practica, internship, or even eventually work where there will be a strict dress code that may limit your overall appearance, often for many of the same reasons we talk about it here.

Proper attire and grooming is expected of all students when they are in professional roles.  This includes (developed by the incoming class of 2010):

  1. When in the SDSU Psychology Clinic:  While your appearance is obviously under scrutiny when you are actually seeing clients, you may also contact clients if you use the clinic as a passageway or you are working in the clinic workroom.  While the dress requirements are obviously less stringent if you are not seeing clients that day, please be mindful of your appearance nonetheless if you frequently pass through the clinic.  If, for example, you are dressed more casually on a given day, you might want to use the outer hallway to get where you are going rather than pass through the Clinic.
  2. When meeting with students when you are serving as a TA or as the instructor (e.g., class time and office hours). Again often it is difficult to get the appropriate respect as an instructor because you may appear younger or you do not have “Dr.” in front of your name; your appearance has the potential to make this even more problematic.
  3. While at practicum at the VA, UC San Diego, or in the community:  Note that each of these sites may have dress and appearance codes above and beyond what is described here (e.g., rules regarding allowable types of footwear).
  4. When interacting with research participants, unless somehow defined otherwise by the research protocol.
  5. When attending professional meetings and conferences

The following are guidelines to assist students in selecting proper attire for their professional roles. As a general rule, if one is uncertain if something is appropriate, it is best to find something else to wear that day, and then to ask a faculty member for input. When dressing “professional,” you should be selecting articles of clothing that fit well, are in good condition, are well-structured, ironed (if needed), and, for the most part, more on the conservative side. These include:

  • Sport coats, blazers, suits (full or as separates)
  • Dresses and skirts that are of sufficient length to not be too revealing when either standing or sitting
  • Dress slacks, khakis, Capri pants, casual pants that are not “jean-like”
  • Sweaters, dress tees, polo shirts, button-up shirts and blouses
  • Ties, dress scarves
  • Dress shoes, dress boots, loafers, oxfords, dress sandals

People tend to make a poorer, less professional impression when wearing articles of clothing that do not fit well or are overly casual, revealing, or are in bad shape. Examples of unacceptable attire include:

  • Jeans of any color or overalls of any type
  • Shorts, skorts, or skirts that are either more than 3 inches above the knee or are overly revealing when sitting or standing
  • Leggings (unless under a skirt), spandex tops or bottoms, stirrup pants, sweatpants
  • Spaghetti-strap tops or dresses, unless worn under an appropriate top or jacket
  • Loungewear
  • Sweatshirts, work-out shirts or clothing
  • Casual tees and shirts with large lettering, political or satirical phrases, or logos
  • Flannel shirts, tank tops (unless the straps are at least 2 inches wide), halter tops, cut-out tops, off-the shoulder tops, tops that are so tight they are revealing, or tops that reveal substantial amounts of cleavage
  • Worn, frayed, stained, or wrinkled clothing
  • Low-cut tops or bottoms that might reveal undergarments or body parts typically covered by undergarments
  • Athletic shoes, athletic sandals, hiking boots, flip-flops or other beach footwear
  • Severely worn footwear

One area where there may be some disagreement is visible piercings or tattoos.  Clearly, tattoos that are offensive (e.g., that display racist, sexist, culturally insensitive, or various forms of “hate” speech messages) or piercings that have the potential to interfere with communication or treatment (e.g., tongue piercings where speech is impaired) cannot be tolerated under any circumstance while engaging in professional behavior. Obviously tattoos that can be covered by clothing are more acceptable than large or oddly placed tattoos that cannot be covered by clothing. Whether tattoos always must be covered should be negotiated on a case-by-case basis with your supervisor, research mentor, or with the co-directors depending on the circumstance.  With respect to piercings, some agencies actually limit the number of piercings that are allowed.  Obviously piercings that are of cultural or religious significance are allowable.  However extensive piercings that could be distracting or controversial (e.g. nose or lip piercings or rings, large numbers of earrings) should be carefully considered before being worn. Extensive or uniquely placed piercings may need to be negotiated on a case-by-case basis with your supervisor, research mentor, or with the co-directors depending on the circumstance.