What to Wear for a TV Interview

As the only man living in my household, I’m not often asked for fashion advice. However, as a leader of our Jackson Spalding Media Training team, I get this question a lot: “What should I wear for this TV interview?”

You may have seen my recent appearance on the soon-to-be-famous web show ‘Tell Blair What’s Up,’ and you also may have noticed that it didn’t quite go as normal interviews go. As I go back and watch it, though, it’s definitely good for a laugh and at least some of my interview training tips come through. Now that we’re in a space where I can’t be interrupted by Blair, I figured I’d type up the rest of the media training tips for TV interview attire so you can be even more prepared for that next interview on camera.

  1. If you’re wearing a white shirt, wear a dark jacket over it – White shirts are classic. But, what if you’re standing in front of a white background? Your shirt would blend in with the background making for a weird visual. Also, if you’re being filmed outside, all that white can mess with a camera’s ability to balance brightness. That’s where the dark jacket comes in. The contrast in color is easy on the eye and helps keep you from looking like your head is floating or your shirt came out of a nuclear reactor.
  2. And while we’re talking jackets… – Men should keep their jacket buttoned to keep their ties in place, their shirt from bunching-up and their clothing symmetrical. For sit-down interviews, sit on your jacket tail. Otherwise, the back of your jacket will start to rise creating a hunchback look. If you have a three-button suit, the rule on buttoning is (from the top button to bottom button) ‘sometimes, always, never.’
  3. Wear glasses on TV only if you need them to see – Glasses create a glare that doesn’t look good on camera. If you need to wear glasses, rest the bows slightly above your ears to reduce glare from the lights.
  4. Use makeup – Yeah, gentlemen – you, too. Makeup powder helps you look fresh and reduces the glare from TV lights. Makeup can also hide a five o’clock shadow for TV interviews conducted late in the day. Makeup can also cover receding hairlines or bald spots. You never want to look shiny, sweaty or pasty on camera.  Some claim a big reason JFK beat out Richard Nixon for the presidency in 1960 was because Kennedy wore makeup on the first-ever televised debate while Nixon refused. Even in black-and-white, JFK looked spry and tan while Nixon appeared tired and blotchy. So go with the makeup. If you are not accustomed to wearing it, make sure to get professional advice first.
  5. Avoid dangly or jingly jewelry – You’re probably thinking, “…but my jewelry looks nice!” It probably does. But, here’s the thing: if you’re doing a TV or radio interview, you will have a microphone on you or close to you. During the interview, the microphone will pick up the sound from dangly or jingly jewelry whenever you move your hands or head. It will be distracting and will detract from the insightful and poignant things you’re saying.

Now, there are plenty more points of advice we at Jackson Spalding offer our clients as they are preparing for an interview, but we’ll save those for another time. If you have an interview coming up, feel free to reach out and we can offer some media training to help you prep for it. You don’t want a small detail to unravel your big opportunity.