These days we have a plethora of men’s headshot attire options available to us depending on our target audience. Traditionally, headshots have been captured with a shirt, jacket and tie. That said, in some regions, and for some professions, more casual looks are more accepted these days, and may even connect with your target audience better.
As a professional headshot photographer, this post is going to show you how I advise my clients to dress so you can get the best portraits possible from your upcoming photoshoot. This post will outline a few basic looks you can bring to your photographer so they can help you hone an overall look that will harmonize with your headshot background. You’ll also learn some do’s and don’ts so you can avoid some common pitfalls and walk away with a polished headshot that will connect with your intended audience.
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Should You Wear A Jacket For a Headshot?
In general I think men look better when wearing a jacket for their headshots. Even if you want a more casual look I’d still wear a jacket and instead omit the tie rather than just wear a shirt. The reason for this is because a jacket will greatly improve your shilloutte and will help accentuate the natural v shape of your body which is more attractive.
When assembling your outfit, I recommend you start with the jacket and build the outfit around it. Pairing it with the shirt and tie is the best place to start because the jacket is the hardest piece to tailor to your body and is generally the piece most of us have the least options of in our closets.
Jacket Tips for Men’s Headshot Attire
When choosing which jacket to wear for your headshots, there are a few things to consider that will help increase the quality of your headshots. Firstly make sure that your jacket is made from 100% natural materials. Avoid jackets with synthetic materials like rayon or nylon as these materials are lower quality and will appear as such in your photos.
Most quality jackets are made totally or mostly of wool, and are sometimes blended with materials like cashmere, silk, mohair and alpaca. All suits should show their material content inside the garment on the tag. High quality jackets will also usually show the thread count of the garment with “super 100” or above denoting a higher quality fabric.
Higher super numbers indicate softer but less durable fabrics. Ergo, a super 180 suit would be softer than a super 100, however the super 100 material will be more durable. Suits intended for daily wear will generally be constructed from super 100-140 while more formal suits will generally be in the super 150-300 range.
Best Suit Color For Headshot
The easiest jacket colors to harmonize with most headshot backgrounds are grays, charcoals, blues earthy greens and browns. Black suits are traditionally more formal and are the hardest color to pair colors with for shirts and ties. Black is also the easiest colors to lose on dark backgrounds. Only wear a black suit with a dark background if you are working with a very skilled photographer!
For this reason if you think you want a black suit, I generally find that most guys are happier with either a navy or charcoal suit for a darker kind of aesthetic. Navy and charcoal are easier to pair with ties and shirts and will age better than black suits will. White or other loud color jackets should generally be avoided for business headshots to keep the attention on your face and avoid clashes with the background.
Safe Jacket Color Choices
Shirt Tips For Men’s Headshot Attire
When choosing a shirt for your headshot, you should always pair the shirt color to the color of the jacket. This is much easier than trying to do it the other way around by pairing a jacket to a shirt you like. Therefor it’s always important to find the jacket you like first and then enhance it with the shirt second.
Spread collars are the most common and easiest shirts to style, however if you want to add a little extra elegance, consider a button down or pinned collar shirt to pair with a tie. If you don’t want to wear a tie, you should choose either a spread or mandarin style collar.
If you want a spread collar, also consider upgrading your plastic collar stays to metal collar stays. Metal is more rigid than plastic and is heavier. This will keep your collar looking sharper and will help keep it weighted down to the shirt better.
Best Color Shirt For Headshots
The easiest shirt colors to pair with gray, charcoal and blue jackets are either white and light blue solid color shirts. Shirts with patterns should be avoided for headshots as they will draw attention down and away from your face.
Black and dark grey shirts can look great with lighter color jackets, for influencers and other people who are their brand. That said, those working corporate jobs would probably do best stick with either white or light blue.
Shirt Brands to Consider and Avoid – Men’s Headshot Attire
Another thing to consider when choosing a shirt is the cloth and buttons the shirt is made from. An easy way to enhance the look of your headshot is to avoid entry level shirts you commonly find at department stores such as:
- Van Heusen
- Calvin Klein
- J. Ferrar
These shirts are usually made from inferior fabrics and have plastic buttons. Furthermore, entry level shirts tend to have inferior collar construction (and overall construction in general) compared to higher end brands. For the difference of the collar alone I’d only buy entry level department store shirts if you’re limited by your budget.
Additionally, you should avoid moisture wicking or “no iron” materials even from the premium brands as these synthetic materials won’t photograph as nicely as natural fabrics will. The one exception to this is Eton shirts which actually do a good job of this without making the cloth look “plasticy.”
The Characteristics of a Good Quality Shirt Are:
- It has both neck and arm measurements
- They’re made from 100% natural materials like cotton, linen etc. (no rayon, nylon, spandex etc.)
- Mother of pearl or horn buttons (not plastic)
- Better collar construction and additional collar and cuff options
- Different fabric weaves for additional texture options
If you want the best shirt possible, you’ll want to have a bespoke shirt maker craft a shirt from your measurements. That said, most men in reality won’t go though the trouble of this. Therefore the next best thing is a quality off the rack brand or online made to measure company which will provide you with a much higher quality shirt then department store brands.
The following are some of my favorite shirt brands that that I’ve found that will photograph very well for your headshot:
Pro tip: If these shirts are out of your price range, you can find all of these brands in very lightly used condition on Ebay for between $20-$30. If you’re paying attention, I just showed you how to look like like James Bond for less than you’d pay at the mall for a garbage brand shirt.
Should I Wear a Tie for My Headshot?
The question of whether or not to wear a tie depends on your intended audience. For example, I’m located on the west coast which has a strong business casual culture among tech workers. In this instance no tie is generally accepted any may actually resonate better with the culture here.
That said, managers, litigators, financial professionals and those who travel internationally (or do business on the east coast) would probably do better to wear a tie. Ultimately it’s best practice to present yourself in your headshot as you would for an interview or when meeting with customers.
Best Tie Color for Headshot
The best tie color is one that harmonizes with your shirt and jacket and should be the last piece you choose when selecting your men’s headshot attire. The tie can either compliment the jacket (complimentary color theory) or harmonize with them (analogous color theory). If you’re new to color coordinating your clothes, you can check out this post.
For example, a dark red tie paired with a dark blue jacket and white shirt is a classic complimentary look that will never go out of style.
For the following look, I chose to harmonize the red tones of my tie with the red tones in my purple shirt and frame them both under a black jacket.
Whatever color tie you decide to go with, it’s generally best practice to use the shirt to separate the jacket and tie from each other. Wearing a similar color jacket and shirt should be avoided as this is too fashion forward for a corporate headshot.
If you’re unsure what color tie to choose, you can use a color wheel to help you come up with good looking complimentary color ideas, copy some of the ideas in this post or copy other inspiration you find. Just a dash of accent color is usually safest and adds a signifiagant punch
If you plan to wear a tie for your headshot, it’s generally best to choose one with a solid color or subtle pattern. Ties that have intense patterns tend to be too distracting and draw attention away from your face in the photo.
Additionally, it’s also strongly recommended that you not wear any tie made of shiny fabrics like nylon and polyester. This is because the flash your photographer will use can reflect off these materials and become distracting. Ties made of silk, cotton and wool won’t reflect like synthetic materials will and thus will photograph best.
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I hope this post helped you better understand what to wear to a men’s professional headshot session! Dressing sharp is an easy way for everyone to improve their headshots and it doesn’t have to be hard!
That said, nice clothes are just one of many things you can do to enhance your headshot. My headshot session checklist has six things to consider leading up to your photoshoot. You don’t have to do everything mentioned on the list, but at least considering all of these points can make a big impact on your headshots also.
If you have any questions about anything, please let me know in the comments!