What to Wear in a Passport Photo: UK Dress Code Guide
The matter of how to dress up before you take your passport photo is more complicated than it seems. As with some other requirements issued by HMPO (a.k.a. His Majesty’s Passport Office), it’s somewhat unclear as to what you can actually wear.
Does it matter what you wear for a passport photo? What are the best colours for a photo booth or studio session? What can’t you have in the picture for your travel credentials? If you’re looking for an answer to any of those, you’re in the right place!
Again, the official requirements do not provide too much information on what to put on for your own passport photo session. If you visit the UK government website, you won’t find any mention of recommended (or prohibited) clothing for identification documents.
What they do mention, however, are some rules that may have to do with how you’re dressed. Seemingly irrelevant at the first glance, these standards can actually prove helpful for those deciding what part of their wardrobe will work best for passport photos:
- The applicant should not have any hats or head coverings. Okay, this is the only requirement 100% relevant to our topic. It’s actually pretty simple: you’re not allowed to wear any head covering unless it’s a piece of headwear worn for medical or religious reasons.
- The applicant’s face must not be covered by anything. Like wearing your scarf up high? If you’re taking your passport photo in street clothes, you’ll have to lower it so that your full face is visible. This time, there are no exceptions, even face masks need to be taken off.
- The photo must contain no other objects. Surprisingly, some parts of clothes can be considered ‘other objects’. Say, if you’re sporting a parka with a bushy fur hood, you’ll have to take it off, as such a hood would be out of place in a passport photo.
Accessories like hair clips, headbands, and headphones (or earbuds) can also classify as ‘other objects’, so they are forbidden to wear for a passport photo, too. A hearing aid is, of course, allowed.
- You can wear glasses for medical purposes only. They may cause reflections. So, if you sport sunglasses (or any other tinted glasses) not for medical reasons but for purely decorative purposes, you’ll have to proceed without them.
- The applicant must be in clear contrast to the background. HMPO recommends taking British passport photos against an off-white background, so make sure to put on something that’s perfectly visible against such a backdrop.
Let’s make it clear first: HMPO’s rules are not as strict as to dictate you what exact clothes to wear in your passport shot. Sure, there are some limitations and nuances to bear in mind, but they are few and make perfect sense.
Best Colours to Wear for a Passport Photo
The classic tried-and-tested colour used for backdrops in UK passport photos is off-white light grey. So, in order to have a good contrast to the background, we recommend wearing something of darker colours such as simple black, navy blue, emerald, teal, or maroon.
Yet this doesn’t mean you’re limited to these shades only. If you’d like your photo to be somewhat more cheerful, you can use brighter shades—for instance, yellow, pink, or orange should look pretty good as well.
What Not to Wear When Taking Passport Photo
Your classic crisp white shirt or light grey apparel. These have a pretty good chance of merging with any plain white background of a similar colour. HMPO doesn’t reject photos on account of that, but it’ll look like your head is floating in mid-air.
- Don’t wear clothing that doesn’t cover your shoulders and/or upper chest. In addition to your entire face, a passport photo captures these parts as well. If there’s nothing on your chest and shoulders, you’ll look naked in your new photo, so a boat neck or tank top is a no-go.
Also, a woman’s exposed shoulders may be thought offensive in some countries. Play it safe and don’t give passport control in such states any reason to frown at.
- Don’t put on something overly casual. We wouldn’t recommend putting on your boldest hoodie with wild prints. Instead, dress like it’s a job interview (plus, if you need to apply for a business visa later, conservative attire will work best).
- If you wear makeup and/or jewellery, don’t overdo it. In passport pictures, all must be in good measure—if you need, you can apply some light makeup and put on lowkey ornaments that don’t give any shine.
Can You Wear a Hoodie in a Passport Photo?
Yes, this doesn’t contradict the official requirements. However, don’t go too casual: make sure that your hood is lowered and the hoodie itself isn’t too baggy. Also, avoid overly bright colours and prints.
Can You Wear a Polo Neck in a Passport Photo?
Yes, you can, as there isn’t any explicit rule prohibiting them. As long as the collar doesn’t go past your chin, you can put on any roll neck you like.
Can You Wear a Burka in a Passport Photo?
No, this is not allowed. The main reason is that a woman wearing a burka cannot be properly identified, as her face is completely covered. According to HMPO’s rules, you’re only allowed to wear religious headgear.
Can I Wear a Scarf in My Passport Photo?
In case you wear it on your neck, make sure it sits tightly and doesn’t cover any part of your face (to be fair, it’s easier to just take it off). Wearing a scarf on your head (as a hijab), however, is allowed for religious purposes (yet it still can’t hide your face).
Can You Wear a Jacket in a Passport Photo?
HMPO doesn’t prohibit this. However, you have to be extra careful with street clothes: if your jacket is puffy and has a large protruding hood, lots of fur and reflective elements, it’s better to pick some other outfit. On the other hand, if it’s compact and neutral, you can leave it on.
Can You Wear a Coat in a Passport Photo?
Since they are basically longer versions of jackets, the same principle applies to them. A low-profile coat of neutral style shouldn’t be a problem.
Can You Wear a Jumper in a Passport Photo?
Sure, why not? Any sweatshirts, sweaters, jumpers and the like are allowed as long as they are of suitable colour. In other words, there isn’t any reason for you not to put such clothes on.
As you see, the rules on clothing are somewhat lenient in the UK. Of course, you can’t sport a celebrity outfit, but with few exceptions, you can dress to your preference, and even uniforms are allowed (for example, a school or military uniform).
If you’re still unsure what style to choose to get a great passport photo, we recommend putting on something casual but neutral—your everyday outfit should do just fine. Any business attire (say, a suit with a collared shirt) will work, too.
Another good idea: practice taking the picture for your passport application beforehand to see what clothes work best. You can use our website for that: it’s just as easy as taking a new passport picture in a nearby Asda. This way, you’ll be 100% ready when it’s time to say ‘cheese’!