Look as Sharp as You Sound: The 7 Essential Items For the Musician’s Wardrobe


A Quick Note: This post is geared toward the male musician. An equivalent post for ladies is soon to come.

College was fun, wasn’t it? You could stay up as late as you wanted, type a paper 20 minutes before turning it in, and wear pajama pants to class. Well my friend, those days are over. It’s time to start looking like a professional musician. Here’s where to start.

The 7 Essentials

Every musician needs to own a few things. Regardless of what type of music you play, I guarantee you’ll need these at some point, and, you don’t have to break the bank either.  It’s better to have them and be prepared than to frantically rush to Target between sound check and the performance.

1. A Crisp White Dress Shirt

“Oh, but I already have one of those that my Dad gave me…”

No. That thing is faded, the collar is dirty, and you’re afraid to raise your arms. You need a new one. There are many different styles of dress shirts, but you don’t need to worry about specifics. I’ll tell you exactly what to get:

A plain white cotton point collar dress shirt. This is invaluable. Spend a little money on a decent one, take care of it, and you’ll look great for years. Try not to spill anything on it, hang dry it, and you’ll be golden. Also, you’re a grown ass man, tuck it in. There is nothing better than a man dressed in a crisp white shirt.

2. Black Dress Pants

Gentlemen, your Dickies are fine for hanging out, and your black skinny jeans look hip, but you need a proper pair of trousers. These will perfectly compliment your crisp white dress shirt. Again, there’s many different styles, if you want to spend time figuring out which ones you like, that’s fine. But here’s a solid recommendation:

A pair of no pattern, no pleats, no cuff black dress pants. Patterns come and go and can be difficult to match a jacket with. Wear pleated pants and you’ll look like your Grandpa (unless that’s your thing). Cuffs can be cool, but are a bolder statement. Plus, they could go out of style soon. We want these bad boys to last you a long time. For these, head over to Nordstrom Rack.

For general care, get these dry cleaned. It makes a huge difference in the way you look, and it only costs a few bucks. While you’re there, get the legs hemmed to fit you perfectly. You’ll thank me later.

3. Black Suit Jacket

This will complete your outfit. If buying a complete suit is too expensive, buy your jacket and pants separately. Just remember you’ll want to keep the patterns to a minimum so that they match. You probably need a slightly smaller size than you think. Most men wear jackets that are a little too big. Go to the store (also Nordstrom Rack)  and experiment with a few different types.

4. A Crisp Black Dress Shirt

Every musician needs a black dress shirt. The rules here are a little looser than with the white shirt, but this still applies: get a shirt that looks nice, and isn’t too patterned. Go for quality on this, remember, it’s going to last you a long time.

5. Dress Shoes

I rocked Payless dress shoes for years. When I finally caved and bought a nice pair of $90 dress shoes, my whole world changed. They’re my most comfortable pair of shoes, I’ve had them for years, and they still look great. Nordstrom Rack again for the win.

6. Black Socks

You’re not Michael Jackson, sorry. You need black socks. Get a few pairs so you don’t end up putting on the same stinky pair that was at the bottom of the laundry basket.

7. Black Tie

This is the tie you’ll wear more than any other tie. Here’s a great skinny one for cheap. Do yourself a favor and learn how to tie it well. 


Bonus Accessories

These are completely optional, but will take your look to the next level and scream professionalism.

  • Tie Clip – This serves two purposes: it holds your tie down, and makes you look damn good.
  • White Pocket Square – This is like the cherry on top. Experiment with different folds to see what you like.
  • Wristwatch – I know, you have a clock on your phone, but a wristwatch stands out and shows you mean business. You don’t need to get a Rolex or anything, something from Target will do just fine. Make sure it’s relatively simple looking, it’ll match with more of your clothes.


Caring For Your New Wardrobe

So you just spent a little money on some new clothes, and you look great. You don’t need to go spend more money in a few months on another pair of shoes. Do these few things to take care of your wardrobe.

When You Aren’t Wearing It, Hang It Up.

You gotta leave in 5 minutes. Where’s your dress shirt? Oh yeah, at the bottom of the hamper. Not only is it wrinkly as a bulldog, it stinks like one too. Hang up any of your clothes when you aren’t wearing them to avoid this common problem.

Wash Them Properly

Your pants and jacket are probably dry clean only. If you try to wash them any other way, you’ll ruin them. Get your pants dry cleaned every few times you wear them, and your jacket every few months. Since you’re hanging them up all the time, they’ll stay looking good between dry clean visits. Check the label, but your shirts are probably machine washable. Wash them, and then hang dry them. It’ll make the fabric last longer.

Learn How To Iron

Next time you see your mom, ask her how it’s done. Or, you can learn right now. Ironing is one of those things that may take time to do, but is definitely worth it. Not only will it keep your clothes in good condition, you’ll look like a million bucks as opposed to only about a thousand. When ironing shirts, I iron in this order: back, sleeves, collar, front. What gets seen most gets ironed last.

Polish Your Shoes

Your suit looks great. It fits well, it’s clean, it’s ironed. Dirty, scuffed shoes can ruin the entire thing. Every month or so, take a few minutes to polish up your shoes. Shoe polish is cheap and it’ll make a huge difference.

Use a Shoe Horn

That’s not some sort of trombone joke. It’s a tool to get your feet in your shoes without destroying the backs of them. You may think this is unnecessary, but it will make your shoes last years longer.

I know what you’re thinking, “This sounds like a lot of time and money.” The thing is, you don’t have to break the bank to dress nice. And if you buy quality clothes and take care of them, you’ll save money in the long run. It’s worth it to spend some money and a few extra minutes to make sure you look great at your gig. You’re a professional after all, dress like one.


These 7 essential pieces of clothing will get you through almost all of your more formal gigs, and they’ll last you a long time. You sound great, why not look great too?

Photo credit: Jono Mueller