Should a man button his suit jacket when appearing on TV? If you look at Regis Philbin, David Letterman or Matt Lauer, the answer is NO. And yet most news anchors and other experts on TV do keep their jackets buttoned.
So which way is better?
As a general rule of thumb for TV appearances, I suggest following what the masters do. If it works for Regis, Dave and Matt, then do it. There is a nice, casual, friendly look to having your jacket unbuttoned and your tie out in the open.
However, in this case, I think it is bad advice for most men and here’s why: Regis, Dave and Matt all make millions or tens of millions of dollars a year and can afford personal trainers, personal chefs, tailors, stylists and other groomers who make sure they look perfect in front of the camera every single day. Also, an alteration can be made on the spot if anything isn’t hanging just right.
Having your jacket open and your tie exposed works best when you have no form or fit flaws. The problem is that the vast majority of men who are not Regis, Dave or Matt, have some form or fit problems. If you have an extra inch or two around your waist, it will be exposed with an open jacket but concealed with a buttoned coat (provided you haven‘t put on so much weight that it is straining the buttons on your jacket).
Keeping a jacket buttoned can also help cover up any problems you may be having with your tie. If your tie is too short, your buttoned jacket can conceal the problem; if your tie is too long, you can tuck it into your pants and your buttoned jacket will conceal this, too. If your tie has a tendency to float to the left or the right, a buttoned jacket will help center and anchor it.
Finally, having your jacket buttoned will conceal more of your light-colored shirt while showing more of your dark jacket. This helps direct the viewers’ attention to your face (because there is less light fabric attracting attention away from your face), which is exactly where you want it. When viewers look at your face, it is more likely that they will focus on and remember your message.
So when in doubt, button your coat.
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