Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Socks and ties


Something as simple as wearing a unique article of clothing, like colorful socks, can help build connections with patients. 

“I miss your colorful ties,” a patient said. 


As an Army orthopaedic surgeon, I wore a military uniform in the clinic for 30 years. It was part of my identity. Now, in civilian practice, I have a whole new wardrobe, the best part is my necktie collection. Some represent sports teams I cheer for, some my hometown, and others are seasonal, like the one with multicolored hearts for Valentine’s Day. Most of my ties are colorful, and some have artistic designs. My patient seemed to enjoy them!


During the initial phases of the pandemic, I stopped wearing neckties, concerned they could carry the virus. But this patient made me rethink that strategy. My colorful ties were something visual that helped us connect in the clinic, and now she noticed their absence. 


I couldn’t find any firm data that it was contraindicated for physicians to wear neckties. As wearing the colorful ties made me feel good and gave me some energy in the clinic, and at least one patient missed them, I started wearing them again. Maybe they can act as kind of a visual icebreaker for new patients and something that helps me reconnect with returning patients. 


Additionally, I started wearing matching colorful socks, which has gotten a few smiles from patients. These ties and now socks seem to bring some lighthearted fun into the clinic.  While they vary daily, they are part of my new “uniform” and identify in the clinic. 









This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.