Tips for Nationals #5: Dress to Impress

Posted by Natalie 

By this point, you already know that you need to dress up for tournaments. After all, it is literally a rule you are required to follow. But sometimes just throwing on a thrift store suit and calling it good isn’t enough. 

In our textbook, 101: An Introduction to Team Policy Debate, we talk about rhetorical strategies, including developing ethos through dress:

“An audience will be more likely to be persuaded by you if they think you are credible…We all wish that looks didn’t matter, but unfortunately people judge a person after only a few seconds of seeing them and how you dress can be their first impression of you.”

So first and foremost, make sure your suits fit. A suit that is too big or too tight can make you look younger and inexperienced. Here is guide for you guys out there. Even an inexpensive thrift store suit can look great if it fits well. Here is a guide for girls that is also pretty good. If your suit doesn’t fit properly, getting it tailored is a option and you can most likely find one that is not terribly expensive.

Even if you can’t tailor your suit, there are other steps you can take to look professional. Be aware of color. Pick shirts and ties that are complimentary and not bright or clashing. Wear jewelry that adds to a look but doesn’t stand out too much. Wear shoes that compliment your suit. Also, make sure your clothes aren’t wrinkled. If you don’t have an iron, steam your clothes in the shower for a bit.

Make sure your hair looks presentable. Get a haircut if you need one and do your hair in the morning  (whatever that process means to you).

Establishing credibility is one of the most important steps you can take and how you dress can do that before you even open your mouth. Looking your best isn’t shallow, it is a rhetorical strategy that makes others listen to you and makes you more confident. 

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