in Musings

Corduroy suits – don’t do it kids!


Where I work  there are several psychiatrists who wear corduroy suits.  Most of them are consultants, but one or two are junior colleagues of mine.  For the moment these pretenders are wearing a jacket only, which suggests the possibility that this is a disease that spreads from the top down.

Why? Oh why?

Not one to keep a gnawing question to myself, I was at an academic meeting when I decided to tackle one of our registrars on this subject.  He’s normally got a sense of humour and so I thought I was on safe ground. 

‘Do you own a corduroy suit?’ I ventured.

‘No’ he shot back.  ‘Why’

‘Just wondering, it’s just that Dr X. has one and so does Dr Y, and I don’t think that they’re very cool’

He looked displeased.  I realised that I had blundered; I didn’t dare talk to him again for the rest of the evening. 

But, why in these days when psychiatrists might wish to be seen as approachable and patient centred, do we seek to distance ourselves from the rest of the human race by our penchant for such disastrous apparel?

The word is that people consider the corduroy is worn by ‘relaxed’ people.  People who are approachable and trustworthy.  They are non threatening and put people at ease. 

So our taste for corduroy brings us closer to our patients.  Which sounds pretty good, and maybe I’ll get one after all. 

But it’s quite a lot for a suit to live up to.

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  1. I think that there is some very important scientific work which should be conducted into the relative soothing potential of different clothing types. Perhaps all doctors should be made to wear cordury suits and open toed sandals. Indeed if this is a disease which works from the top down, is this the logical progression?

  2. In our department nearly all of the male psychiatrists have beards (and none of the women, thankfully). Out of the dozen or so men I can think of, only two do not have beards, and they are bald. Perhaps being bald satisfies the “aberrant hair distribution” requirement? Of course, several of the senior faculty are bald AND have beards….

  3. Neuroshrink, thank you for your contribution to this important debate. I wonder if we can consider baldness, beards, corduroy suits and open toed sandals all as part of the same syndrome. Although these symptoms can all appear separately, the ‘classic case’ of psychiatric doctor appearance will involve a man (and rarely a woman) who loses his/her hair, then grows a beard and then buys a wardrobe of corduroy suits, starting with jackets, before developing a more serious condition and sporting the trousers and sandals as well. If the ‘aberrant hair distribution’ you identify is also poorly maintained, then this would indicate particularly severe pathology.

  4. I recognise I’m a bit of a johnny-come-lately to this issue but I hadn’t realised your aversion to corduroy. I myself own a very fine brown cord jacket.

    I might wear it the next time I see you.