by Stu Chisholm
Some years ago, before my DJ career became more than just a hobby, I took a class on job seeking.
Besides learning how to write a good resume and preparing for the interview process, it seemed like someone was always talking about how to dress.
There’s a specific way to dress for an interview – putting the proverbial “best foot forward,” and another for the day-to-day grind.
Then “casual Fridays” came along, but I quickly learned that “casual” didn’t mean comfortable; there were RULES.
My Early Dress Up Days
When my DJ career took off, I decided that formal events meant that entertainers should do something special. In an era where DJs showed up in tour shirts and ripped jeans, and a suit was a rarity, I inked a deal with a formal wear company.
They agreed to provide me with a tuxedo if I’d put their brochures into my promotional packets. I’ll never forget the reactions from banquet hall managers! “It’s nice to see you guys finally dressing up for the occasion!”
Nowadays, few DJs would even think of wearing anything less than a three-piece suit to a wedding. Yet what should a DJ wear BEFORE the show? During the load-in and setup?
What a DJ Should Wear
As a quick peek at a popular DJ forum revealed, opinions abound. Some recommended logo emblazoned polo shirts and khakis to aid in their effort to impress the hall staff and make a good impression. Others said that more rugged clothing, like jeans and work shirts are best, as long as the DJ changes into formal wear for the party. One even spoke of their “set-up suit.” So what’s the right answer?
I’m a huge fan of borrowing what works from other fields. For instance, I like to stand while I entertain, yet the shoes you find at the formal wear shop are notoriously uncomfortable.
If The Shoe Fits, Wear It
My solution was to look to the people who are on their feet a lot, yet have to look good while doing it; police and waiters.
At a local uniform shop I found a couple of different brands of shoes designed for police, who are usually required to have clean, professional looking shoes on the job. To my surprise, they custom fit them to your feet! Measurements are taken and, a week or two later, your shoes arrive, and all for less than a hundred bucks.
An even less expensive option is a line of shoes designed especially for waiters, bartenders and service personnel called TredSafe™, which is readily available at Wal-Mart.
Both look quite formal, yet are easy on the feet! But the shoes I wear for set-up are completely different, and for very practical reasons.
Moving heavy equipment into a venue makes me think about the work boots worn by moving company personnel. Steel toes can save a world of hurt if a speaker gets away from you, and the heavy tread can keep an inbound DJ from slips and falls when the weather isn’t optimum. Oil resistant soles are also a plus, especially at those venues that insist we load our gear through the kitchen areas. For these reasons, brands such as Red Wing and Caterpillar are good choices.
Sturdy Fabrics and Pockets Can Be Your Best Friends
When it comes to pants, again I ask, “what do the pros wear?” We need tougher stuff, since again, we’re loading equipment in and out, plus we might spend some time on ladders or on our knees setting up trussing and/or lights. We often have tools we need to keep handy. To me, that sounds a lot like an EMT!
An Emergency Medical Technician generally favors BDU style work pants with plenty of pockets for their gear. I find the cargo pockets especially handy, since one is a perfect fit for my multi-tool and another is a handy place to stow my GPS unit that I don’t want to leave in the truck. I prefer the 5.11 brand, which has rip-stop fabric, reinforced stress points, double seat and knee fabric, and even has pockets for knee pads, which would be perfect for those of us who have uplighting to set up in a large ballroom. Best of all, as utilitarian as they are, they still have a professional appearance.
If you’re setting up for a really big show and have a lot of tools and gadgets to deal with, then I highly recommend a photographer’s vest. You will never run out of pockets, and if there are tasks that you do repeatedly, you can leave those tools in the vest and never forget them again!
They Fit Like a Glove
Here’s the last item I’ll recommend. Using hand trucks, pushing around road cases, handling trussing and all the other items we need for our shows mean that your hands are going to get a workout! Cuts and bruises aren’t rare, and then there are those cold days when the hand truck stored in your trailer or van can feel like ice. Borrow a tactic from people who move cargo for a living and dress your hands for success by investing in a good, high-quality pair of work gloves.
As DJs, dressing for success means more than just looking like professionals on stage. We must keep safety in mind along with the practical considerations that setting up a show and standing on our feet for long hours demands.
Is there something you wear for set-up or during events that works especially well? Let us know!
Stu Chisholm – The Complete Disc Jockey
Stu Chisholm of Stu & His Crew Professional Disc Jockey Service in Michigan, has has worked in several areas of the DJ Universe. He’s been a radio, mobile, club and roller skating rink DJ in the Detroit area since 1979, and done commercial voice-over work, as well. Stu has been a keynote and featured speaker at DJ trade shows in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. He is the author of the book, “The Complete Disc Jockey” and is a regular columnist with Mobile Beat Magazine. To contact him, email DJStuCrew@gmail.com. You can grab Stu’s book at TheCompleteDiscJockey.com.