Wear the right clothes, get the right clients.
Before I dive into what I wear to client meetings, I just want to be clear that this is merely my opinion and should be taken with a grain of salt. If you disagree, that’s totally fine, everyone has a different opinion and this is certainly not a ‘my way or the highway’ situation. Style is individual and unique to everyone.
I will however say that I’ve been to A LOT of client meetings and over time have definitely seen a few things which work better than others for me personally and some of my other professional filmmaker and photographer friends. Also it’s worth noting I’m a male so my suggestions my not be perfect for females but I’ll do my best to cover female dress codes based on how I see other females in the industry dressing.
Also keep in mind, this is what I wear to client meetings. This is not necessarily what I wear on set or to a job. There are a lot more options for those scenarios, depending on the project.
What we cover in this article:
- General rules
- Basic Do’s and Don’ts
- Exactly what I wear and why
- Some good websites with options
General rules of what you want to convey with your appearance:
- That you are a professional – No this doesn’t mean suiting up!
- That you are approachable and likely good to work with
- That you have your life put together and are reliable – No one wants to risk a no-show or job-gone-wrong
- That you aren’t the ‘cheap’ option but you aren’t a rip-off merchant – Again, no need for a suit!
- That you have put thought into your appearance but aren’t self-obsessed
The Basic Do’s and Don’ts – no matter what you wear..
Do be prepared – Always know what you’re wearing at least 1 day before the meeting, so you’re not rushed or the thing you wanted to wear is dirty and you have to come up with a Plan B.
Do not wear dirty clothes – Sometimes you just want to get an extra day or 2 out of your favourite pair of jeans or shirt even though you can see that little stain on them. They won’t see the faint coffee splash on your shirt right?! They may not, but it’s not worth the risk of taking the clients focus from your presentation to your dirty shirt!
Do always have a Plan B – Remember earlier how I said you don’t want to have to come up with a Plan B? Lies! (sort of!) Always have a Plan B! Even if you’re perfectly prepared there’s always the chance of accidentally ruining your outfit before the meeting so if possible always keep a gym bag in your car with a nice neutral client-friendly set of clothes just in case!
Don’t wear excessively branded clothing – I’m sure there are some minor exceptions to this rule, but in general if you want to land a good client it’s best to avoid gratuitously branded clothing. The client doesn’t care how much you spent on your shirt.
Don’t wear hats – Unless you absolutely have to, don’t wear a hat. I know you might think that felt fedora or beret makes you look artistic… but it doesn’t, you look like a wanker. Also don’t wear baseball caps etc (yes, even if it’s branded with your company logo)
What I wear to client meetings 95% of the time and why.
What I wear to client meetings is based on a few factors which I will list in order of importance:
- They allow me to charge more for my services without the client being shocked at the price or thinking I’m an idiot trying to charge a decent rate
- They work well in most situations for most clients (ie: they’re fairly neutral choices)
- I feel comfortable wearing them and they suit me (They would also suit most people)
- They fit in well with the job title of a Professional Photographer or Videographer
#1 – Pants (examples below)
Starting with the easiest choice first: The Pants! Wear black pants or well-fitting black jeans. The only exception to this is maybe Navy or Tan colour chino style pants or similar (don’t roll them up). Black pants and black jeans look good on everyone. They are totally un-offensive and seen as professional in most environments. Even jeans are considered ‘smart casual’ when they’re black. But avoid ripped jeans. Also, probably avoid pants with pleats.
Jeans Cuts: I find this varies brand to brand but overall they should be well fitted. Skinny, Slim or Straight cut. Generally I would go with Slim so that it’s well fitted but I still have some movement.
A good portion of my jeans are from H&M because they generally fit pretty well, are cheap and available in most western countries. But there are plenty of other good ones, some skate/surf/ski clothing companies have good stuff too. My Pants are mostly from a few different brands like Industrie, Scotch & Soda, Peter Jackson etc but H&M and the skate/surf brands have good ones as well. You can find a good range of brands at theiconic.com.
Girls can definitely wear well-fitting black pants or black jeans too. They also have the option for a long skirt if they prefer or even a business/work appropriate dress.
#2 – Shirt (examples below)
Possibly the most important choice, your shirt style will play the largest factor in terms of how ‘dressed up’ you look.
I wear to 98% of my client meetings a light-blue linen long sleeve button-up shirt. I own 3 which are all quite similar. I do not tuck them in and don’t need to because they are a tapered cut.
The only alternatives to this would be a Navy, Black or white button-up shirt if you’re worried about sweat showing (also preferably linen or chambray material) . White will look better on darker skin complexions though, if you’re very pale I would recommend the other colours.
Why a linen shirt? Linen and similar materials are ideal because they are breathable and calming both to the wearer and client. Linen is associated with artisans and creatives so fits perfectly to meet clients. It’s also a material which represents a level of style which isn’t cheap but not tacky, expensive or over-the-top (eg: like silk etc).
But what about branded shirts of my business? In my opinion; no, not to the client meeting. You’re a filmmaker/photographer, not a salesman in an electronics store.
You can wear branded clothing to the production set if you so desire but for the client meetings I would advise against it. It’s unnecessary, they know who you are and will likely receive plenty of material from you like a quote, business card, pitch etc with your branding anyway.
If you feel you need to wear something with your company branding, at least buy a stylish shirt like whats listed above and then pay to have your logo tastefully embroidered on it. Trust me on this, less is more when it comes to branding yourself as a premium professional.
Shirts with a lot of patterns or logos etc; No.
Polos; …Maybe. But it better be the middle of summer, or you work in somewhere tropical and the polo better be one from Polo Ralph Lauren and it better be subtle and not one of their tacky ones with stripes and huge branding etc! Or a well-fitted black polo, preferably a decent brand with subtle or no branding.
Brands: Brand doesn’t matter too much as long as its good quality and well fitting. Polo Ralph Lauren make excellent shirts but there are many other brands with similar quality for less $.
Female Variant – I would suggest some similar styles for females. They can choose to wear a lot of different materials though and possibly even a blouse with some light patterns or designer cut. Doesn’t necessarily have to be a collared shirt like the mens and doesn’t have to be a button up. Probably avoid low-cuts as it should be professional. Short or long sleeve is fine, sleeveless probably not.
I had a look on an Australian website called TheIconic.com.au and there are plenty of good options for women. I notice Polo Ralph Lauren does similar shirts to the mens in a womens cut which would be great. Otherwise go for something a bit more ‘girly’ if a button-up isn’t your thing. Here’s a link to a search I did which has some good options.
#3 – Shoes (examples below)
For some people shoes are a make or break item. I personally don’t care too much what people wear on their feet as I’ve been buying the exact same model of Adidas Samba shoe since 2004 for non-work wearing. However, work is work and it’s worth putting effort into the shoes you decide to wear to try and make a great first impression on the client.
You want to wear a shoe which looks professional but artistic. That’s the easiest way I can describe it. Something dressy-casual. Not so dressy you look like a corporate banker but no so casual you look unprofessional or cheap.
Do not wear sneakers. I see SO MANY filmmakers and photographers wearing sneakers to meetings and while it won’t matter to most people or clients, it will matter to some. Particularly the bigger corporate clients, so why risk it? Just because your sneakers cost $300 doesn’t mean they’re good or appropriate for a client meeting. (Remember 0n-set is a different matter.)
You should basicallyh be wearing a dress shoe or boot which isn’t a shiny corporate looking shoe. Something a hipster might wear to a wedding! Below is a picture of nearly exactly the same shoe I have worn to almost every client meeting for about 5 years straight! (I’ve even had it re-soled due to wearing so much!)
Rules for shoes:
- Brown? – No, some people don’t like it.
- Shiny? – eh… maybe if it doesn’t look tacky
- Sneakers? – No.
- Bright colours? – Definitely not
- Work boots? (Dr Martens/Timberlands) – No.
- Crocs? – Yes of course, but only with wacky socks!
Some decent examples of shoes which will work with your clothing choices and fit the part of a professional filmmaker or photographer:
Brands: The shoes I wear are a brand called YD. This may just be an Australian brand though. As long as they’re good quality, comfy and fit the criteria about you should be fine. Don’t buy cheap crap though, invest in a great pair of shoes and wear it for years to come.
Girls probably have a lot more options in what they can wear. I would still avoid sneakers but just some professional shoes, probably with a bit of a heel would be good. Try to avoid crazy patterns and colours but you can probably get away with wearing something a bit more showy and fashionable than guys can.
Some Places You Can Buy Clothes
I’ll do my best to provide global options as well as some other websites I know. Generally if your country cannot order from my examples then you can type in the name of that company then your country name then ‘alternative’. You can also type in a few of the brand names I mention and if they’re being sold online in your country the larger website will generally come up.
**Send me your websites** – If you’re from a country I don’t cover but you know a good website, please comment below and I will add it to the list.
For reference: I’m from Australia so I’ll post some good Aussie websites in addition to the global ones.