Before he was famous, George Washington loved fashion and well-tailored breeches—especially when his pants weren’t too tight around his legs and butt. He knew that clothes made the man and he accepted his high laundry bill because if you look good, you feel good and those around you can feel your positive morale. When he became Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in 1775 the troops didn’t have a unifying uniform. He changed all that when he declared that blue jackets, white breeches and tricorn hats were the new American uniform. Washington also ordered that the riflemen don fringed hunting shirts, not only for practicality, but also to “carry no small terror to the enemy, who think every such person a complete marksman.” It worked! Morale turned around thanks to Washington’s branding efforts, and the troops almost forgot the Continental Congress wasn’t paying them. Oops. Where’s Hamilton when you need him?
When it comes to clothes Washington understood the power of personal and professional branding. What are you wearing for your performances, shows, readings, conferences, meetings, and events?
I wear blue/purple dresses or skirts with black leggings when I’m in “professional” mode for a few reasons. First, I don’t own any real pants (yes, I do have yoga pants) because pants won’t fit my legs anymore thanks to rigorous Irish dancing. Second, getting into a dress is easy. I wear blue because the blue matches my guitar strap and I wear purple because purple looks good with my hair. Why leggings? So you can’t see up my skirt on the stage when I’m fiddling with sound equipment—I do play guitar standing up. You may also tend to see me in sleeveless dresses because sleeves don’t get in the way of my playing—it’s not because I want to show off my arms! My left arm bears a new melanoma surgery scar which isn’t the nicest thing to look at. And you may have noticed I don’t wear bracelets—that’s because they won’t bang against my guitar.
My uniform of a dress and leggings helps me feel confident and secure, so I can do my work without worrying about what I’m wearing. Just like old Taylor Swift in flowy dresses and cowboy boots (now she’s platinum blonde sporting a grunge look), Willie Nelson in his T-shirt and red bandanna or Rob Thomas in tight jeans and a dark T-shirt (better to hide the sweat stains). Wearing blue, even if it’s the same dress in Facebook photos, doesn’t bother me anymore because blue, like Washington’s blue, is now my chief branding color. It also happens to be the main color of my Irish dance school, Trionoide.
Whatever your style is, be consistent and plan well. You’ll feel more attractive and you’ll attract the audience you want, plus you’re wearing your brand so your audience and fans associate the outer you with the inner you.
Comment below–I’d love your feedback on this post! Your Turn: What do you wear when you perform at an open mic or reading? How much or how little do you plan for what you’ll be wearing? Do you have a particular style that is part of your personal brand?