Dress to Impress: Make the Right First Impression as a Massage Therapist

Massage therapists come into the bodywork business to help people. A conversation about how we dress can sound superficial, but how you dress is as important as how you decorate your office. If your workplace had holes in the walls and dirt on the floor, you would clean it up. Treat your dress code the same. If you would like to make a good first impression and take your massage practice to the next level, try adding a bit of spa elegance to your dress code.

 

Don’t Be Too Casual

I returned to school at the age of 38. It had been 14 years since I graduated from college and I felt like a schoolgirl again. The feeling of starting a new career in massage therapy made my whole being alive with hope. I was sharing classes with 19-year-olds who were smart and funny, but their conversation matched their dress code: casual and, at times, vulgar. The students were free from the expectations of traditional workplaces, and wore old, comfortable T-shirts, torn jeans and yoga pants to class. I was becoming a massage therapist and my goal was to have a private office and wear yoga pants to work everyday.

Upon graduating, I rented a private office. I wore pink yoga pants to work.

Business was slow and I decided to try working at a local spa. I wanted to work around people and always liked having co-workers. When I began to work there, I quickly realized my pink yoga pants, casual style and tennis shoes were out of place at these elegant establishments. The spa workers were well-groomed and dressed alike. I wanted to be part of this stylish group. I suddenly missed my days at the social service agency, where I began my professional life and dressed like a therapist. Because first impressions matter, I wanted to be more excellent in my presentation. I felt motivated to be better by the desire to be part of a team.

 

Dress Like Your Colleagues

Professionals in all fields are inspired by each other and dress in ways that provide cohesiveness in that field. As a massage therapist, I wonder where other massage therapists get their fashion inspiration. In remembering my retired pink yoga pants, I realize massage and yoga have a history of shared interests and Eastern influences. This shared interest is in caring for the body holistically, as well as incorporating the use of stretching and movement to repair muscles and joints of the body to help our clients stay healthy. But does a shared influence mean we should dress alike? Should a massage therapist dress like a yogi? Massage therapists need to find clothes that are comfortable and professional, with a statement that says, “I am a massage therapist.”

The monochromatic dress code typically adopted at spas is universally recognizable as worn by someone who is about to take care of you or offer comfort. White looks fresh and crisp, but it is easy to stain, especially with all of the oils, lotions and creams used in massage therapy. Wearing a darker color like black is more popular due to its flattering hue and its ability to camouflage stains. If you were to adopt this spa-like dress code, you could use accessories to add your own element of style. However, make sure these accessories are not too distracting and take away from your client’s therapeutic massage session.

There are limits on how casual any massage therapist should dress, but when first building a business, it’s best to keep it simple, professional and recognizable within the field.

 

Therapeutic & Stylish

Professionalism is key for both male and female massage therapists. Here are some tips for adopting a therapeutic and stylish dress code:

  • Wear shirts that expose no more than 2 inches below your collarbone.
  • Wear shirts that are soft and flexible.
  • Although T-shirts are acceptable in the industry, they should not be overly form-fitting. Make sure to always look appropriate.
  • For females, be aware if you’re showing cleavage. You don’t want to give the wrong impression.
  • Consider wearing scrubs. They have come along way in the development of style, comfort, modesty and professionalism.
  • Do not wear shirts that are short or tight, and do not wear tight pants or pants that hang low.
  • Wear a belt when needed. If you have to pull up your pants during the day, you probably need a belt or a seamstress.
  • Don’t be ashamed of elastic waists. They are comfortable and flexible and stay up high when you are bending low.
  • Make sure to wear the right sized pants.

Finding a style that suits you and fits your need for comfort at work is not out of reach. Make a plan and save your tips. Return to your massage practice with a dress code that matches the ethic you already bring to your work: therapeutic, comfortable and professional—with a pinch of spa elegance.

About the Author

Trisha Brown Leweke is originally from New York, New York. After graduating from college, Leweke worked as a foster-care case manager, photographer and stay-at-home mom before entering massage therapy school in the Shenandoah Valley. She has been a massage therapist for the past six years, practicing therapeutic massage and energy healing at Cedar Stone Spa in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She is a self-care consultant for the local news station.