Denny Crane?  Alan Shore?  Ally McBeale?  

It was 9:00am and the Boston law office was buzzing.  Phones were clamoring, the receptionist had five callers on hold and paralegals were frantically preparing litigators for their day in court.  That’s when the two massive mahogany office doors slowly eased open, as if an invisible force was propelling them.  A warm breeze shot through the office scented with strong, expensive cologne.  All activity paused as heads turned. In swaggered seventy-five year old storied attorney, libertine and man about town Denny Crane.   Crane’s twenty thousand dollar suit was complemented by an elegant burgundy tie, blue shirt with french cuffs and a Patek Philippe timepiece that cost well over one hundred thousand dollars.  His balding pate was buffed and tan from his weekend on the Vineyard.  And his attitude, as usual: priceless. In short, he  was a study in sartorial splendor, dressed to kill even though he had no court date or meeting to attend.  But in TV land, that’s just how big time lawyers roll.  

Of course, we’re having fun with Boston Legal’s Denny Crane but his natty attire does beg the question, how should a lawyer dress when recording TV commercials?  At Brantley Davis Ad Agency, we’re asked that question frequently.  Our ad agency produces about 500 lawyer TV ads each year.  And every attorney asks “What should I wear?”  Suit and tie, sport coat with open collar dress shirt, t-shirt and jeans?  The question really should be, how do people who hire personal injury attorneys think a successful lawyer should dress.  

The typical personal injury law firm client is a blue collar adult, age 25-54 earning an average household income or less.  They’re not exposed to lawyers in their everyday lives.  They’re not hanging out at the country club drinking martinis after a quick back nine Friday at 3pm. That’s why they call PI attorneys who advertise on TV because they don’t know any other attorneys.   And that’s why consumers’ romantic notion of how an attorney should dress is shaped by Hollywood.  TV shows and movies are the only place most potential law firm clients gain exposure to attorneys.  Think about this.  American “households” spent 272 hours watching live TV in March and another 122 hours watching CTV (Connected TV/Streaming).  That’s about 12 hours a day per household viewing TV!  No wonder their views are shaped by what they see on TV.  

And of course, many of the most popular law firm TV series over the years have featured lawyers outfitted in excessive sartorial decor:  Boston Legal’s comedic rapscallion Denny Crane, all the characters in Suits, Ally McBeal and LA Law.   Even on Law & Order, a more grainy depiction of our legal system, the characters dressed for court every day.  As a matter of fact, it’s fair to say many of the most popular legal TV programs had significant influence on our culture and how American office workers dressed for decades.  

So, how should a brilliant attorney dress for a TV commercial?  Follow these guidelines and even Denny Crane will be envious:  

  1. PREPARE WARDROBE EARLY:  Talk to your ad agency about wardrobe at least a month in advance of the shoot so you have time to purchase new clothes and make alterations.  Our clients take us virtually to haberdashers and even their closets to select wardrobe. 
  2. DARK SUIT (Women and men):
    • The best colors are dark grays and blues.  Avoid black suits as they can look a bit morbid.  
    • Subtle or no patterns are preferable.  For example, a subtle pinstripe can come across well on camera but pronounced patterns can make you look like a used car salesman.
  3. BLUE SHIRT (White works too):  The camera loves light blue shirts but as demonstrated every night on TV newscasts, white shirts can work well too.  Bring both options to the shoot.
    • Solid red, burgundy, dark blue, light blue ties will make you come across like an elegant, articulate litigator.  Rep ties can also look fabulous but keep them simple.  
    • Windsor knots look dashing but you may be limited to the type of knot you’re able to tie.  Some lawyers tie their knots before arriving at the studio and slip the tie over their head when ready for camera.  
    • No gaps between the tie and the collar button. You will look sloppy, even if everything else is perfect.  Have someone on set watch for the gap as you’re shooting.  
  5. OPEN COLLAR:  open collar can work but the suit or sportcoat should have enough personality to liven up the look.  In this case, a simple pocket square can add some texture too.  Do not wear a plain suit with a white shirt. You’ll look unfinished.
  6. BELTS:  Belts should be dark, plain and simple.  No skull and crossbone belts, flag belts etc.  You don’t want the audience’s attention drawn to your waistline.  
  7. WATCHES:  It’s a personal preference but there’s no downside to shooting ads while not wearing a fancy watch.  If you do wear a watch, make certain it isn’t ostentatious.  No diamonds, nothing over 44mm in size.  
  8. CUFFLINKS:  Cufflinks can be quite elegant, but they also can cause reflections and glare in the camera so no cufflinks for the big tv shoot.  
  9. NO TO MATCHING POCKET SQUARES & TIES:  When in doubt, go without a pocket square and definitely do not wear a tie, pocket square matching set.  If you relish sporting the square, keep it very simple.  
  10. SHOES:  Recently we shot TV ads at the Ritz Carlton in one of their posh conference rooms.  The client insisted on wearing Ritz bedroom slippers throughout the shoot.  It was a blast and made for great social media.  Fortunately, we were only shooting waist up.  However, if you’re going to wear comfy shoes, bring your dress shoes and plain dark socks too just in case you need to appear in a full body shot.  
  11. BRING OPTIONS:  Bring two suits, several ties and a blue and white shirt to every shoot.  That will allow your wardrobe folks to audition your ensembles in front of camera to see which sings.  

For more sartorial guidance email Brantley Davis