Looking the part: the journalist's guide to editing your attire

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

When I played high school football, games were always played on Fridays. To prepare for our opponent, our coaches would spend the better part of the Monday going through what was called, "walk and talk." Instead of running sprints and bashing into each other on the practice field, we'd discuss our opponents, similar to how a scholar would discuss philosophy or physics.

To lead the discussion, our assistant head coach always began with a quote. They were different each week. This one has always resonated with me:

"The man who knows how will always have a job. The man who knows why will always be his boss."

I'm not sure if Ralph Waldo Emerson played football, or even knew how to strap on a helmet, but his words speak beyond the gridiron.

Coincidentally, it speaks directly to how and why a reporter and/or journalist needs to edit his or her attire before conducting an in-person interview.

(Well, it doesn't really. This post is just about editing your wardrobe before conducting in-person interviews for articles and stories. I just wanted to use the quote. It's my blog and I can do what I want. But you get it, right?)

Here are some examples, complete with images, on how a journalist, or anyone conducting an in-person interview, should edit their attire.

(Sorry ladies, this post is male centric. Women always look good anyway. It's the guys who just need a little help.)

1. You need to dress the part.
People have an image of what a reporter, newscaster, or journalist should look like. Don't distort that by showing up to an interview dressed like you were Tom Hank's body double in Castaway. Your interview subject -whether it's a VIP, or a random from off the street- is your guest. Treat their eyes with respect.

As a journalist, you can't go wrong with a simple tie, blazer, and dress pants

2. But don't overwhelm with your attire.
You want to look a professional journalist, not a professional wedding singer. Instead of wearing your best suit, go the business causal route. Important tip: make sure your clothes, at the very least, are free of stains, rips, and holes.  

3. Bathe.
Be sure to hit the shower before the interview. Enough said.

4. If you have to think about it, you still don't have it right.
This is the case for most things. You know when you know. If you have to think twice about wearing a pair of warn, cut-off-at-the-upper-hip jeans out to an interview, trust your snap judgment, and just don't wear them. Better yet, do yourself a favor and throw them away. No, actually, burn them to a denim crisp. You'll be doing the world a favor.


5. Tic-Tac, Sir?
Thinking about eating a Spicy Italian Subway sandwich, topped with extra onions and peppers, before the interview? Please, for the love of all things holy, think again. This should be a top the list. I may be going out on a limb here, but I'd say most people don't like unpleasant surprises. There's nothing worse than being fooled by someone who looks the part. If your breath smells like neon green gas should be emitting from your mouth, not a lot of people will want to spend more than two seconds with you.

(If you must eat bad breath inducing foods, or just naturally have bad breath (sorry, that sounds harsh, but according to a recent FDA study, 25 per cent of Americans have some form of Halitosis), then make sure to have a fresh supply of mints with you at all times. Gum isn't as good an option, because it's rude to be chopping on a stick of Trident while someone’s talking to you.)

6. Ease off the Cologne.
You want to be remembered for your fair and balanced reporting, not your tang. Instead of baptizing yourself in a pool of your finest fragrances, go scentless. A lot of people can be turned off by strong scents, or might even have some serious scent allergies. Don't take the risk. Follow step 3, and all should be good.

Yes, Mr President, continue.


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