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Some thoughts on comedy uniforms

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Some thoughts on comedy uniforms

At the end of 2014 I was introduced to the 6 items of clothing or less challenge. I’ve still not done it. The basic principle is that you pick your favourite 6 items of clothing and only wear them for the month. This does not include socks, pants, jackets, shoes or accessories. Part of the “plus points” of this challenge is that it frees up your mind to focus on “other more important things” than what you’re wearing.
A few months earlier I was at the Edinburgh Festival at the BBC Tent in a Q&A with a handful of comedians. I could only tell you that the Boy With Tape On His Face was one of them because he’s the only one I could recognise but also the only one I’d gone to talk to.
My question was simple: Do you feel your comedy uniform has an impact on your performance or audience?
I specifically planned the question to avoid it becoming a leading question. I wanted to know his first hand experience of wearing the same clothing over and over again (for performing) and if he felt it made any sort of difference. 
I was expecting him to say either “nope” or “I did it for the character” (which he did) but he also went on to note that it was good that he didn’t have to worry about how he was going to look on stage because he knew that before anything thing was planned. He also commented that when he walks about the streets of Edinburgh nobody comes up to him or recognises him because he doesn’t look like The Boy.
For me a “worry” about becoming “mega famous” (which I’ll admit is a premature concern disguised as a life goal) is losing part of myself, my privacy and my identity. To become a media / tabloid character in a narrative they picked for me. And to be stopped on the street every 10 feet by someone who wants a selfie (a word I’m still yet to get behind).
I forgot about all of this until a week ago when I read an article on Medium entitled “Why I Wear The Exact Some Outfit Every Day” (I can’t find the original article so here’s the reddit discussion). This Art Director had similar thoughts, but also enjoyed the fact her mind was not cluttered by thoughts like “Oh, I’ve a client meeting today, better look good” because she always looked good, because she always looked almost identical to the last time they saw her.
Digging a little deeper I found a Mashable article about “Why Zuck and other successful men wear the same thing every day“. 
I don’t agree with a lot of what the Facebook Founder says but this – 
I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.” – Mark Zuckerberg
 
Really struck a chord with me.
 
Someone once said to me if you want to be famous you need a “look” which is recognisable in silhouette. I read a book called Moonwalking With Einstein which was written by Joshua Foer (a former US memory champion) and his research led him to believe you need to stand out enough that people’s memories have no choice but to make a new space / category / section for you. Which makes you easier to locate in the vast files of crap we (for some reason) decide to remember. This, is essentially branding.
 
I love the idea that when you “get dressed” for a gig, you’re “getting ready to go to work”. But I also love that when you’re not dressed the way people expect to see you, you just blend in. And hardly anyone will spot you – and even fewer will come up to you.
 
Road sign lettering is written in both upper and lower cases because you see the outline of the word before you read the word. Where’s Wally is a very intelligent example of this because they introduced a bunch of new characters who were sort of similarly dressed to Wally. Which meant the books got harder. Because instead of just looking for the outline of his iconic red and white striped jumped you’d spot it and then have to look closer to identify if it was Wally or one of his friends (who all seem to go shopping in the same branch of H&M).
 
Anyway, I’m not sure where I’m going with this except I can see the value of having a “look” as a performer. Branding is everything when you are a solo business and although you might not have to wear the exact same outfit every time having a hat, scarf, shirt, style of jeans etc. might help you stand out and be memorable to your audience.

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Simon Caine is a comedian, author, podcaster, writer and social media manager. He's the host of the Ask The Industry Podcast (iTunes link) , writer of jokes for Twitter and teller of gags on the London comedy scene. He's also the person writing this and it is taking all his willpower not to make a "Simon Says" joke.
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