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An argument for wearing jeans at a presentation

May 28, 2010

As marketers, we understand that a first impression says something. Wearing a suit says something. Wearing jeans and an ironic t-shirt says something as well. When I make presentations,  I tend to wear jeans, and a button down shirt. Sometimes I don’t even tuck in the shirt.

As a person who does things in social media, I want to project an image that I just came from work. I didn’t wear a suit when I came up with the theories that I present, so it would be out of character for me to wear a suit to present the ideas.

I only thought of this because of a blog post saying that Jeans are never appropriate when presenting. I disagree.

A creative director once told me that how one looks in a creative presentation matters. He typically wore jeans (sometimes ripped) and an ironic t-shirt of some sort. He did this on purpose.

Here’s why.

The people who generally watch the creative presentations wear suits. He said, “If I look like them, why would they buy an out-there idea off me?”. In other words, if he stands up there in a suit presenting ideas he came up with that are ‘creative’, he should look the part. And the part isn’t a person who wears suits.

Now think about a presentation. Sometimes a presenter needs to walk in a room and let people know right away that what they do all day is different from the people who are watching the presentation.

First impressions matter. A bold declaration like “Jeans are never right in a presentation” assumes there is only one first impression that matters. If you know who you are presenting to, then maybe Jeans will help make you look suitably different (pun intended).

6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 28, 2010 2:02 pm

    I actually agree that you should dress for your audience. What I don’t agree with is when (and this is a gross generalization) “experts” in the social media space don’t consider their audience and wear jeans for a presentation where people have paid hundreds of dollars to attend. I’ve attended conferences where it very clearly states that you cannot wear jeans to attend, so why would the speakers wear jeans?

    Just like Ryan Knapp commented on the blog post I wrote, if he went in and spoke to coaches in a suit, they’d laugh him out of the room. BUT he also doesn’t show up in gym shorts and a polo shirt. He wears slacks and a button down.

    I’d rather be safe than sorry….it’s always better to be overdressed than under-dressed.

    • June 1, 2010 1:05 pm

      Time and place is all that matters. I’ve often thought that if you’re presenting social media to larger brands, then dressing casual helps sell in the casual nature of these tools.

      • June 5, 2010 1:27 pm

        Insightfully awesome article; well said. Nevertheless, would you say that physical appearance only goes as far capturing attention and setting shallow stereotype-schemata? The content of the presentation and competence of the speaker seem like they would be the deciding factors of whether you market the product successfully.

        A person in jeans and an ironic tee can look a complete fool or genius depending on how the presentation itself goes.

  2. May 31, 2010 8:21 pm

    I am on your side in this argument. Pending on who and what the conference is for, it is more than appropriate to wear classy jeans to an event, even if you are speaking!

  3. June 7, 2010 12:49 pm


    “A person in jeans and an ironic tee can look a complete fool or genius depending on how the presentation itself goes.”

    Same can be said for the person in a suit. Indeed, unless the speaker is naked, if the presentation is bad, that’s what they’ll remember, not what the person looked like.

  4. June 7, 2010 5:48 pm

    Quite agreeable, sir. I just feel like some people relentlessly stigmatize other people without logical or rational basis. And I guess I’m just a bit afraid that my professors or future project might not be so understanding.
    Upon meditating the situation, I realized this: If you’re trying to break the mold, there is no room for mediocrity. You really have to be phenomenal.

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