Are you trying to figure out what you should wear to your next gig? Is your on-stage image lacking something?
It's a good thing to be thinking about, because your live show isn't just about the music you play. Your fans are going to be paying attention to a variety of other elements like your stage presence and the stories you share (or don't share) with them, regardless of whether or not you give any thought to those things.
There are a few different considerations when it comes to your personal branding too. Here's what you need to know about choosing your clothing for the stage.
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What Are My Options?
When it comes right down to it, there are basically only three options. You could:
- Wear what you usually wear in your normal day-to-day.
- Dress up, or have a specific stage costume.
- Accessorize to make your usual wardrobe a little more interesting.
Your choice will depend somewhat on your musical style, budget, marketing, and so forth. We'll take a look at each of these options in more detail, but first, let's think about whether or not what you wear really matters.
Does What I Wear Really Matter?
What you wear may seem kind of trivial. Why would your audience be preoccupied with your clothing? Who are they to judge?
The reality of the matter is that your show isn't just your music. It's the stage banter, the instruments you're playing, the signage or branding you use, and yes, even what you wear. It's a package deal, and every detail matters.
If you're going to take the time and care to work on your chops as a musician, you should also be thinking about your presentation. It could mean the difference between being heard and acknowledged, or being ignored and dismissed.
It's important to make a good impression on your audience. More than anything else, this is what you should be thinking about.
At times, your outfit helps to enhance your personality and highlight your individuality. At other times, coordinating with other band members can create a sense of unity, even if it's just an accent color.
Option #1 – Wearing What You Usually Wear
This can be a great option if what you usually wear is already in keeping with your music, your personality, and your overall brand.
Bryan Adams, for example, very rarely wears anything overly elaborate. You'll often find him in a pair of jeans and a matching button-down top. If he's feeling really crazy, you might see him in a white T-shirt with jeans.
In addition, some people like to dress like rocks stars, and their day to day garb might be perfect for stage. Of course, if you just walk onstage with the clothing on your back, it doesn't create much of a gap between your offstage persona and onstage persona. That could be to your detriment or to your advantage, depending on situation.
Ideally, even if you can't see yourself dressing up or wearing a specific costume, it's at least worth considering enhancing your outfit with accessories.
Option #2 – Dressing Up Or Wearing A Costume
If you're in a jazz band, formal or business casual wear is standard. Some rock bands are even known to wear suits to their gigs.
And, obviously, we don't have to look much further than acts like Devo, Lady Gaga or David Bowie to see artists that either have a specific costume for every show, or are constantly evolving personalities/characters.
A solid onstage persona can really help with your branding and marketing. It isn't necessary to purchase expensive attire to achieve a recognizable image, but in general, this is the more pricey option.
In the case of a band like Devo, their costumes were an essential part of their brand. If you're trying to put together a specific look, then it may be necessary to go this direction. Otherwise, there are other ways of going about crafting your image.
Option #3 – Accessorize & Enhance
For most bands and artists, this is probably the easiest and most accessible way to find a reasonable compromise between the first and second options. A bandana, a wristband, a scarf, sunglasses, watches, and other accessories can unify the look of a band, especially if the colors match.
Your goal should be to be an exaggerated version of yourself onstage. This is easier to achieve than you might think. Even just a belt or a necklace can make a big difference.
You could also enhance your image with tattoos, makeup, or face paint, if it makes sense for your act. Make sure to balance your accessorizing with how you're going to come across. A jazz band with muscle shirts and tattoos might not be entirely congruent, the same way a country band with suits might not resonate with audiences.
You can go against the grain if that's your prerogative, but make sure it's a planned event rather than an accident. Make it a part of your branding if you're wanting to do something unusual.
From A Practical Standpoint
Practically speaking, you probably don't want to overextend your wardrobe budget just so you can look great on stage. Thus why you might want to lean towards option three.
A music career can be expensive enough without you having to think about adding one more thing to your list, and in the case of clothes, you can end up spending a lot of money.
You can always upgrade your attire as your career continues to grow. It's best to be frugal early on, but there's no reason why you can't evolve as your stage game improves.
Don't forget; live music is about the experience you create for your fans, and there are only so many elements you can control. As a result, there should be some thought behind the things you do have control over.
If you make it your goal to please your fans, choosing your stage attire should be easier to do. When you're focused on the enjoyment of your fans, you'll also begin to experience more success in your career.