Are You Suited for TV News?

Marc Dopher is a sports anchor and reporter at WYFF in Greenville, SC.

It seems appropriate to start this “A Block” blog post by giving you a frame of reference of where I am coming from. I have worked in television news as a sports anchor/reporter since 2003. Before I got into television, and probably like many of you, I worked at wide variety of jobs. Jobs in high school and throughout college were simply meant to put a little extra money in my pocket, keep gas in my car, etc. When I say “variety of jobs”, I MEAN variety. I’ve washed dishes, taught arts and crafts at a Boy Scout camp, delivered pizza, hung dry wall, worked in the news department of a public radio station, and (this is the point of the post) I sold suits at a men’s store. While I only worked at a men’s store, much of what I am about to tell you can also be applied to women trying to get into TV news/broadcasting.

You are entering an extremely competitive field that (for good, bad, or ugly) is based initially on your appearance. You will be sending out links to your work and your appearance in that work will go a long way towards a possible employer deciding whether or not they are interested in learning more about you as a perspective employee. You want to get hired? You have to LOOK THE PART! Here are a few tips for those of you trying to get going in the television news business.

1. Charcoal gray, navy blue, and black with a light pattern should be the first three suits you buy. This is a professional set. It will work for any situation both personally and professionally. It’s a solid base to operate from. No employer in this country will be shocked when you show up to an interview in one of those three colors. When I say black with a light pattern, I mean don’t buy a flat black suit. It needs a little definition like a REALLY light pinstripe.

2. Suits don’t have to cost $1,000 to look really sharp. I’ve been in this business more than a decade and I have never paid full price for a suit. Every suit store out there has sales virtually non-stop. You don’t need a $500 suit. You need a $150 suit that looks like a $500 suit. How do you do that? Proceed to the next point.

3. The way to make good look great, is by taking your suits to a real deal tailor. It took me years to learn this and I am very frustrated that I didn’t do this sooner. Forget the seamstress at the suit shop when you need your pants hemmed, get on Google, and find a tailor. It’s actually cheaper than paying the suit shop to adjust your slacks and your jacket. They will help make sure your suit has a really great fit. It will be more comfortable and it sharpens your look so that it doesn’t look off the rack.

4. Learn to tie a good knot in your tie. Nothing drives me crazier than people who wear ties every single day and they tie a crappy knot. Take the time to learn and tie a very triangular knot. It seems small but this is a detail that helps sharpen your look and tells people you are put together and you care about the details (TV is all about details).

5. Avoid trends!!!!!!! If you hear an employee at a suit shop tell you, “this is really the look right now”. They mean right now and not next week. You are building a foundation of a professional wardrobe, you need standard suits, standard button up shirts, and ties that don’t say Tabasco on them. I promise, if you buy a really trendy suit….you will ultimately be really sorry. Standard suit with a great fit is a great start as you enter this business.

Overall, I really make a huge effort to look and dress so that I can look back in 15 years and NOT laugh at what I was wearing. Think Ralph Lauren (no I’m not saying buy Ralph Lauren). If you look at Ralph Lauren’s website, most of what they sell is very simple and very classic. A nice pair of khakis with a light blue button up shirt. It won’t ever go out of style. Think that way as you start to piece together the things you will be wearing 50 hours a week, 50 weeks a year.

If you are sitting there thinking “how am I going to pay for this?”- a quick suggestion. Christmas/Hanukah are right around the corner and you will likely be receiving some gifts. Ask for the things you need to start your career. In the case of television news, ask for clothes. Companies like Joseph A. Bank and Men’s Wearhouse always have sales of buy 1 get 3 free, 3 shirts for $99, etc. Personally, my suits come from Joseph A Bank, I order my shirts from J.C. Penny when they are on sale(last time I bought shirts I found them for $12.99 each), and I buy my ties from TJ Maxx, Ross, or any other discount clothing store that has ties. The tie I wore on air tonight cost me $6.99! It’s not about spending a lot, it’s about spending on the right things and making sure they fit the right way.

Please feel free to reach out to me at any time on Facebook or Twitter if you would like some help. I would be happy to help in any way that I can.

I’ll leave you with this. My best friend Phil and I often say to each other “Man makes the clothes, clothes make the man”. The one thing I can tell you about Phil, he always looks like a million bucks!

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