Since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party in the UK, I think it’s only on rare occasions that I’ve seen him being interviewed on TV with his shirt collar done up and his tie properly knotted.
Some people might feel that in some situations this could be seen as disrespectful – that’s for them to judge. The one thing it is, however, is a distraction from what he’s saying.
Many viewers will be sitting at home watching him on television thinking, “For goodness sake man, do up your tie” and therefore paying less attention to his words.
Avoiding distractions like this is an important consideration when being interviewed on television. I don’t pretend to be a leading fashion expert, far from it, but there are certain tips that are worth passing on.
Patterns can be a problem. Men should not wear a tie bearing the logo of their favourite football team or the images of various animals. Identifying the football team or the species of animals will be the focus of the viewer’s attention, once again steering them away from what the interviewee is actually saying.
Women should avoid clothes that are too “busy” – elaborate floral patterns for example. Lavish jewellery can also steal the show, with viewers wondering what those earrings cost.
Shirts with narrow pinstripes often have the effect of strobing in front of a camera. The same applies to jackets.
What about colours?
If you wear white on its own, whether under fierce studio lights or in torrid sunlight, this can cause the interviewee to “flare up” on screen, as the white shirt blasts the reflected light into the camera. In general, pastel shades work best when it comes to the garment you wear underneath a jacket.
Which brings me on to why wearing a jacket is preferable.
Bear in mind that quite often you are whisked into a studio for an interview very quickly indeed. The previous interviewee leaves the studio chair and within seconds you are taking their place. That means the floor manager might have to get a microphone on you very quickly. This involves attaching the microphone to part of your clothing and then hiding the microphone cable. For this, it’s always best to wear a jacket, rather than a sweater, a blouse or some other kind of top. The attachment of the microphone and the hiding of the cable can be done very swiftly. Moreover, a jacket lapel gives the microphone support, whereas a shirt or blouse on its own could end up rubbing against the microphone, causing audio disturbance.
One thing you don’t have to be too worried about is your footwear. Usually your shoes are not in the camera shot.
As it happens, I’m the last one who should be giving advice about footwear while taking part in an interview. During my days as a Middle East correspondent I once interviewed King Hussein of Jordan, an extremely pleasant and gracious man, in Amman.
I was shown into the room where the interview was to take place by one of his protocol officials. I sat down and crossed my legs, waiting for His Majesty to arrive and take his seat opposite me. As I waited, the protocol officer approached me and spoke quietly in my ear, asking me to un-cross my legs. This was because my cross-legged position meant that the sole of one of my shoes would be pointing directly at the King during the interview. That was not acceptable, I was told. I un-crossed my legs, King Hussein entered and we did the interview.
I observed that he didn’t cross his legs either. But then it wouldn’t have mattered if he did. No disrespect towards me would have been involved – after all, I was there simply as a journalist!