There are many schools of thought on what is appropriate to wear on stage – and the answer really depends on your act. Dave Chappelle should not dress the same as David Letterman because their acts are so different. But whatever your act is, you should be aware that your clothing makes a huge impression on the crowd.
As someone who isn’t naturally fashion conscious, it took me a while to find what works for me (I finally asked a fashionable friend to take me shopping). Hopefully these tips can help you get there quicker.
1) Be the best version of you. If you’re a mess on stage, it’s fine to dress like one. But you should still think about what you’re going to wear.
2) Never wear shorts. Unless you’re playing the part of a clueless dad on vacation, there are no exceptions. This isn’t summer camp, and it doesn’t matter how hot it is outside. Respect the stage.
3) If you wear a hat with any brim at all, know that it covers part of your face. The vast majority of stages do not accommodate for hats, and the bigger the brim, the more the shadow it will cast. That’s your choice, but know that when you make it, you can lose the ability to be expressive with your eyes.
4) Dressing “sexy” is silly. It’s a fine way to pick up people after the show, but if you want people to listen to what you’re saying, don’t draw attention to your physical appearance. Also, funny can be sexy – but sexy is rarely funny.
5) Wearing a t-shirt with a “funny” saying on it can be distracting. Do you want them to listen to you, or do you want them to read your shirt?
6) Wearing clothing that shows allegiances will shift the focus off your act. Someone will always disagree with any allegiance. Whether it is a sports team or a TV show, unless the clothing is part of your act, it’s going to create an impression of you that you may not want to create.
7) Dress like you’re going out, because you are. Sure, some people roll off their couch and go to comedy shows. But if you were taking a date to a comedy show, wouldn’t you think about what you’re wearing beforehand? Then why don’t you when you’re going there to perform?
8) Don’t be a schlub unless it’s on purpose. “Eh, it’s just a bar show” might seem fine in your head, but when you show up looking like crap, the booker (and the audience) will get the impression that you don’t care about the gig. As they say, dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
9) Find a look that works, and stick to it. Comedians always talk about finding our “voice” – but what about our “look”? Much like our voices, our look can change throughout our career – and it takes a while to find it. But once you find a style that compliments your set and makes you feel comfortable, that is one less thing to worry about.
In other words, dress within your brand, but not in a way that is distracting. If your act is solid, you want your jokes to speak for themselves. And leave the unnecessarily loud clothing to the tourists watching you.