How to Dress For Radio


(By Jeff McHugh) With cameras now in many radio and podcast studios, the days when on-air hosts did not think about what they wear are over, or they should be.

My advice is dress with intention. Consider how wardrobe plays a role in your video and social media content. Your clothes either add to your character brand or they take away.

If you walked down a street in your town, would your attire tell people that a rising media star was in their presence, or could they mistake you for a Door Dash driver?

There are few rules written in stone when it comes to fashion, but here are some observations to consider when you know there will be a camera involved in your work.

Dress for your character
Consider Doctor Johnny Fever, a deejay character on the 1970’s show, WKRP In Cincinnati. They wanted to portray Johnny as an on-the-way-down burn-out. They dressed him in sloppy band shirts, unshaven face, unkempt hair, and sunglasses as a character signal to the audience.

What does your clothing signal to the audience about your character?

  • Tino Cochino dresses like a happening host on the way up; designer sneakers, gold chain, and unique glasses.
  • At NPR, interviewer Terry Gross wears dark jackets, stylish glasses, and scarves that say, “I am smart and well-read.”
  • Dave Ryan at KDWB Minneapolis is fond of bright plaid shirts that say, “friendly, fun Minnesota family guy.”

Dress 15% better than your average audience
Observe what your target listener wears, and go slightly better. When the Mercedes in the Morning team at Mix 941 walk around Las Vegas, they probably look like they are headed to a dinner party or first date.

Contrast with your partner
Be opposites. On Dex and Barbie T Facebook Live videos, Dex Mitchell is in black Wu-Tang shirts, while Barbie T brings the bling, mirrored sunglasses, and jewelry swagger. Kelly and Wood have a practice of checking what colors they are wearing each day so they contrast on video.

Consider a uniform
Should you wear the same thing all the time? Steve Jobs of Apple had his black turtleneck. On KIIS Sydney, mega-talent Kyle Sandilands of Kyle and Jackie O wears a signature black shirt a black ballcap almost every day. Bob Kevoian of Bob and Tom wore a Dodgers cap so often they included it in their logo.

Dress for the event
Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg is famous for his black hoodie and gray t-shirts. But when he speaks to Congress, you better believe he puts on a suit. What you wear on stage at a concert festival may not work for meeting clients or hosting a local charity banquet.

Dress for how you feel
Confidence is an important mindset for a presenter. Notice when you walk a little taller in a certain item or style, then go buy more of that item. If you feel like a success, people will sense that success in you.

Can I guarantee you a spike in downloads, more social media interaction, or a higher share in Nielsen if you wear different clothes?

No. I don’t have any science behind any of this.

But I do maintain that we — in radio and podcasting — are in show business. Our media is often “othered,”  or seen as less-than in comparison to movies, television, and other entertainment.

How we present our stars visually to the world really matters.

Jeff McHugh is known for developing remarkable talent for both morning and afternoon drive. He brings an uncommon mix of positivity, creativity, and strategy to the shows that he coaches. He is a member of the team at the Randy Lane Company. Reach Jeff at [email protected]


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