Does what you wear as a musician really matter?
Through the decades, artists have donned disco costumes, leather and spandex, jeans and flannel, hip-hop fashions, and more.
And, in a way, it seems as though we ran out of ideas in the 2000s, when people started taking cues from previous decades – especially the 80s and 90s. The “mash-up” generation is still alive and well, though we have since started incorporating more hipster fashions into the mix here in the 2010s.
By the way, here's a neat presentation that showcases fashions from the 20s all the way up to the 2010s.
Most people don't enjoy being objectified and classified – particularly musicians – but you have to see how you dress as part of your public identity. First impressions aren't soon forgotten.
Clothing alone won't necessarily make or brake you, but making a great impression should be a priority if you want your career to have any kind of longevity.
Here are onstage and offstage wardrobe ideas for musicians.
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How Musicians Should Dress, Onstage Ideas
You and I know that being a musician isn't that glamorous. But in a way, it's our job to create that mystique.
By choosing our outfits well, we can brand ourselves, feel confident onstage, and even unify our audience.
Here are a couple of onstage ideas you can take advantage of:
- Wear what you normally wear. In general, this is only a good idea if your street wear is already sufficiently musician-esque. Plus, you don't really get to create a gap between your offstage and onstage persona. It's up to you as to whether or not you want to differentiate the two, but in general I have found it helpful to be an exaggerated version of myself onstage. Another way to create variation without breaking the budget is to accessorize with bandanas, wristbands, necklaces, sunglasses, and so on before hitting the stage.
- Maintain a separate stage costume. This is a good way to make sure your onstage persona differs from your offstage one. Even if you only have one wardrobe for stage use, it's better than having no way of expressing your personality in performance. If you're in a band, it's good to be thinking about color schemes and coordinating with the other members. Your attire should also be matched to your genre of music.
Here are some additional tips for onstage dress:
- Make sure your clothing is clean. Torn, unwashed, dirt-covered jeans aren't going to help you make a great impression. In fact, this is such an ingrained stereotype that it should be avoided at all costs. Make sure your clothing is neat and clean.
- Make sure your clothing is appropriate. Wearing leather, chokers, and black makeup to a jazz bar is going to seem out-of-place. Consider where you're playing, and what kind of attire is best suited to the venue. Also beware of showing too much skin.
- Make sure you come across as a professional. No, this doesn't always mean dressing up. But your attire certainly shouldn't make you appear any less professional than you are. If music is your passion, you have to develop a style that is congruent with your message.
- Make sure your style reflects your music. This goes hand-in-hand with being appropriate. If you're in hard rock band, you probably wouldn't hit the stage with a three-piece suit. Likewise, if you're a singer/songwriter, dressing up like Elvis Presley doesn't make a lot of sense. There are always some exceptions like Lady Gaga, mind you.
Offstage Ideas For Music Markers Fashion
Most if not all of us have been witnesses to celebrity meltdowns and questionable public behavior.
And while I doubt that tabloid outlets like TMZ are even going to care about how you look unless you're a star, it's still a good idea to maintain a respectable image when you're not performing.
Even when you're offstage, it doesn't necessarily mean that you aren't promoting your music. You might be attending conferences, negotiating live performance contracts with music venues, meeting with fans, and so on.
The aforementioned tips on cleanliness and appropriateness certainly apply. You don't have to wear a suit or a dress everywhere you go, but you should still work to maintain professionalism.
Another idea that I've already brought up is creating a gap between your onstage and offstage identity. Having a dedicated onstage identity can actually help with getting you in the right mental space to perform, and can create more of a connection with your audience too.
What you wear is an outwards reflection of the kind of people you want to attract to your music. This isn't to suggest that you can't appeal to a wider demographic later on, but it can help with building your audience when you're still mostly unknown.
Consider the example of No Doubt. Their style could be described as punk/skater, certainly a fashion choice that was very relevant in the 90s.
This fashion is also very much in keeping with their musical style. Today, No Doubt and Gwen Stefani may be known across the world, but they didn't try to appeal to everyone to begin with. They had a very well-defined image. Because of that, some people immediately identified with them.
Finally, I would suggest taking inspiration from established artists. Now don't forget what I already said about the tabloids and celebrity malfunctions, but you can certainly learn from other musicians that have a track record for tastefulness.
Situational awareness is vital to picking the right clothing at the right times.
Although it's nothing to lose sleep over, if you want to create memorable experiences for your fans, you have to be aware of how you're coming across.
There might be times when a suit or a dress is appropriate, and I don't just mean if you happen to play in a jazz band. Business meetings, award ceremonies, and other important occasions might call for it.
There may also be times when street clothing works just fine. Although professionalism is important, being able to relate to people is also crucial.
Cleanliness and appropriateness should always be made a high priority in a decision making process, and as long as you follow these basic guidelines, you should do just fine.