A picture may be worth a 1000 words, but when you’re wearing that picture on TV, while being viewed by millions, it can speak volumes in a way you might not have anticipated.
So it was yesterday for Dr Matt Taylor, who works on the Rosetta mission at the European Space Agency.
He was at the heart of the amazing comet story, heralded as perhaps the biggest space moment since Neil Armstrong did a moonwalk long before Michael Jackson.
But, Dr Taylor, arguably displaying more of an affinity to theatrical Jacko, than modest Armstrong, decided this was the moment to don a garish jacket covered in images of scantily-clad women.
Not for Matt the scientist’s traditional attire of elbow-padded cardigan or crumpled lab coat.
Little wonder his glamour-garb triggered an instant twitter storm and plenty of press coverage.
It has split opinion as cleanly as a Philae harpoon.
Some feel he’s made science cool; others think the clothing was misogynistic.
One thing is clear – we’re all focusing on his clothes, not the ESA’s achievement (although some might argue his clothes have drawn more people to look at the comet story).
Usually, when a broadcast interview can last a matter of seconds to perhaps as long as five minutes, we’d always advise against distracting clothing. (If you think you’d never be so side-tracked by someone’s attire, see how often you sit through an entire TV weather forecast, only to have no idea if your part of the world is in for rain or rays next day.)
The distraction can be small (dangly earrings, a glittering watch strap, or clashing scarf) or glaring (checked “strobing” shirt or a Mickey Mouse tie etc..). Either way, they all serve to weaken the impact of the interviewee’s messages.
Who knows, perhaps Dr Taylor was making a bid to be the first astro boffin to land a prime time science spot on TV since Brian Cox made stars – and we’re not talking the X-Factor ones here – cool, bringing new meaning to “meteoric rise”.
If so, he might yet succeed. But if he wanted the vast viewing public to hang on his every word as he gushed about this incredible project, well, I could not remember a thing he uttered.
What’s more, if any young girls and female science undergraduates had tuned in to be inspired to follow a career in physics or maths, they were probably put off by the messages his jacket was sending.
But wait, the story has a twist. By the time he appeared on Newsnight, the pin-up jacket had been replaced by a dark hoodie. (I hope the former is now in some black hole in a galaxy far, far away.)
That said, with the media spotlight still shining as brightly as a shooting star upon him, he could not resist showing us his new tattoo of the Philae lander, well, landing on his leg.
Who knows what might have followed if the programme had not run out of time.
Meanwhile, to anyone thinking of making a radical sartorial choice before their big TV moment, here’s my message: think again.
It’s not rocket science is it?