Wear the Right Look on Stage

“The Look” of your band on stage is important because it helps fans remember you, or not.

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I still remember a guy that had a mohawk tipped in purple that was so tall it made his head tilt in the breeze. I was so intrigued that I actually had to get his attention to ask him what he used to get it so tall and stiff (unflavored gelatin). Then, there was “metal-face”, a guy who had more metal from piercings and jewelry than skin showing on his face (definitely not recommended)… ah… good times. The first was an ordained minister that used his look to help get prostitutes off the streets of New York. The second was a hurting kid craving attention. I still pray for both of them from time to time. The point is for good or bad, I remember them years later because of their look.

Are you using “The Look” of your band on stage to help fans remember you?

Your Christian band does not have to be over the top crazy looking. But you do have to be interesting and appropriate for each specific performance. Bands that already have a large fan base and name recognition are freer to dress however they want. But newer, young bands that are trying to get established need to use every tool they can to develop a loyal fan base. This is why you often see national bands look extreme for their first CD and tone it down a little later… they are trying to stand out and get noticed at first.

Here are the primary things to consider:

Size of the stage – If you are performing on a small intimate stage (say a Coffeehouse for example) you can wear smaller more intricate jewelry and less colorful clothing. You don’t want to blind the audience with bright red head to toe or not be able to see you hands playing for all the sparkly rings. You do want to keep their attention with multiple patterns and textures. If you are on a larger stage (say one of those portable stages at an outdoor gig) you need stronger color and bigger, bolder accessories. This is the place for an arm full of bracelets and several necklaces (since one will not be seen) and the loudest shirt you feel comfortable wearing. Small patterns and textures will not show up.

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Proximity to audience – The distance from your audience is important because color intensity and details are lost with distance. A small stage where the audience is far away (this does not happen a lot, but it does occur from time to time) requires more color and larger size of accessories. Likewise, a large stage where the audience is all up front can handle a little less.

Stage lighting – Is the venue dark with full theater style lights? Will there be a lot of smoke? If so, the lights will fade out many colors. Pastels will wash out the most quickly – a pale yellow actually can look white. Wear extremely intense colors if you want to stand out… think of the basic color crayon colors: red, blue, green, purple. Again, you don’t need to wear these colors head to toe, but you should at least have some strong accents. For example the lead singer of Right Side Cast has a pair of jeans with way too many holes. So, we sewed red fabric in behind the rips (red is their band color). Every time he moves the red shows up.

Length of Performance – How much do you sweat on stage? How tight is the waistband on those pants? Does that necklace have a catch that scratches? Playing for 15 minutes can be really different than a 45 minute set.

Functionality – You clothes must work for what you are doing. Do not compromise the quality of your music to wear something cool. Guitarists may need to buckle their belt on the side while drummers may need to wear only one shirt. I personally have gotten a heal from one of my too tall spiky shoes caught in the carpet of a stage… tripping on stage is never cool. Excessively long pants can cause tripping problems too.

Styles that flatter you – HUGE, HUGE, HUGE problems here. I see it at way more than half the shows I attend. Remember that your audience is looking UP at you most of the time. Have you ever seen a photo taken by a little kid? What do you see?… nostrils and big bellies. The same effect happens on stage. Please make sure your shirts are not too tight. Anything that emphasizes your waist or stomach is not the best unless you have a great waistline. Ladies please make sure your skirts are not too short – remember that what looks OK straight on does not look so good looking up.

Coordinate all band members clothing. No, I’m not talking about matching costumes. I am saying that the look of the band should be consistent with each person and the style of music you play. A southern Gospel band should not have a member dressed as Goth chick. One especially great thing Right Side Cast used to do was to coordinate with the color red. The bass player had a red bass but didn’t wear red clothing. The lead singer had jeans with red fabric. The guitarist often wore a red shirt or accessory and the drums were red. Often someone had a red bandanna tied somewhere. This little bit of color reinforced the bands complete image. It coordinated with their merch table (red tablecloth), band logo, and press kit.

So, how do you know if you are getting this right?

There are two ways which should be used in combination:

(1) Take videos of your shows. These should not be videos made for fans with lots of creativity. You just need straight up shots from the audience to see what they are seeing. Watch them and critique yourselves.

(2) Have a fashionista friend familiar with your genre of music help you with critiques and clothing choices. Don’t get defensive when they says you look bad in that shirt – Thank her for caring enough to keep you from looking silly onstage!

One last word: Pay attention to what you wear in your band photo. If you don’t pay attention any other time, at least pay attention here.

Look like your music genre and look interesting!

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