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How to Dress for Success When Getting Autographs

You may have heard the old saying, “When you look good, you feel good.” There’s also a more recent maxim along the same lines—as a matter of fact, I just made it up: “When you look good, you graph good.” The latter has less to do with a heightened sense of confidence and more to do with the benefits of dressing in a way consistent with your environment (i.e., look the part). In many settings being conspicuous puts the autograph collector at a disadvantage.

Now I’m not suggesting you leave your ball cap at home when you’re hanging over the railing along the first base line. But wearing your game day wardrobe outside a five-star hotel is a surefire way to attract increased attention of security and put your graphing opportunities at risk (would my story about meeting Shaq in the lobby of the Four Seasons have the same ending if I was dressed casually?). Your goal should be to appear like just another guest and draw no attention before you make your request.

Another perspective to consider is that of the celebrity. We all make snap judgments on people and the way they dress plays a role in our prejudice. I’m reminded of the time I approached Seth McFarlane on the set of Ted. He did a double-take when I asked him for an autograph.

“You want my autograph?” he said. “Um, ok. I thought you were with the movie and had a question.”

I’m not suggesting you graph in a three-piece suit, just look the part. In this case, Seth thought I was just another production assistant and it got me an autograph before I could be shuttled off by an actual PA.

Consider the dapper gentlemen pictured below. Might a ballplayer take a different route or put a phone to his ear if he noticed a group of guys that looked like our friend on the right? Would the young man on the left have an easier time getting a temperamental signer to stop and acknowledge him? I would contend the answers to both questions are yes. Without exception? No. But certainly more likely.

Two autograph collectors dressed completely differently

Which of the these guys is the grapher? The hotel guest?

Does dressing in a t-shirt and jeans mean you’ll miss out on a ton of graphing opportunities? Of course not, but think about how your appearance might affect the interactions you have (or don’t have) with those people who can affect your chances.

Do you consider what to wear depending on where you’re getting autographs? What do you think of my recommendations?

About the author: is the founder of Autograph University. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and two sons. Connect with him on Twitter at @mattraymond.

11 comments… add one

  • Daniel January 20, 2014, 4:57 pm

    I never thought about it this way and now I’m just going to mix it up a bit.

  • Trey February 6, 2014, 10:17 am

    Very well written Matt. Appearance is very important. For example, Emmitt Smith had a golf tournament which you could sign up and a play in for a donation to his charity. I couldn’t afford to play, but I went out anyway hoping I could get his autograph. If I came out in a Cowboys jersey and hat, they would have knew what I was there for. Instead I put on a hat, polo and slacks Tiger Woods style. I was lucky enough to run into Emmitt and got his autograph. He thought I was playing in the tournament and thanked me for coming out and participating.

  • Matt Raymond February 6, 2014, 11:37 am

    Boom! Perfect case study – congrats.

  • James Guest February 21, 2014, 5:23 am

    Thanks for the great info! I have always dressed like the guy on the right although I have never tried graphing at a hotel either. Have been collecting for a fee years now but only collect boston sports teams now that I live back in New England. Do the local players stay at hotels? Should I dress like the guy on the left if I’m outside Fenway trying? Love the updates, very informative

  • Matt Raymond February 24, 2014, 9:48 pm

    The local players will stay at their own homes. As a general rule I suggest dressing in a way in which you’ll blend into the environment, so at the ballpark I think it’s ok to wear your team colors. Wear what’s comfortable for you.

  • Canadagraphs February 21, 2014, 10:17 am

    I have often thought “if I just dressed a bit less casual, I might get so & so” but I never do.
    For me, its convenience & comfort.

    I’d rather know where I am holding everything and not constantly keep feeling “off” with amore presentable & professional looking attire. If I am going to be standing in front of a hotel for several hours, I don’t want to be cold, constantly feeling like my shirt, pants, jacket needs adjusting or that the materials I have with me to get signed are ok in my backpack and that its not going to slip off my shoulders, rather than look more presentable.

    For me, appearance might have cost me a few 100 autographs over the years, but the comfort & familiarity of the clothes I usually dress in outweigh those losses for me.

    There are some instances where dressing up is mandatory to have success, and on occasional I will. But for everyday graphing at a place I’m at often, I don’t think you could pay me to dress up at the cost of my comfort.

  • Matt Raymond March 3, 2014, 8:47 pm

    I appreciate the perspective. If dressing a certain way makes you feel uncomfortable then it will certainly affect your success – or at least enjoyment – in other ways. I wear business casual every day so it’s not a stretch to carry that over to graphing but I absolutely agree that having a level of comfort and confidence goes a long way no matter how you’re dressed.


  • Brett February 21, 2014, 11:09 am

    In the early 2000’s I put on khaki pants, a nice shirt, nice shoes, and with a small binder under my arm (which contained a bunch of 8×10 photos) literally walked in the back door of an arena in the afternoon before a WWE wrestling show. I walked right past a ton of fans dressed in shorts and wrestling t-shirts who were obviously waiting for wrestlers to arrive. I walked right past security. No one said anything to me because I looked and acted like I knew what I was doing.

    After soaking in the scene of watching them set up the ring, seeing a bunch of wrestlers walking around and hanging out, I decided to start graphing. I got two guys to happily sign for me (Shane McMahon and Matt Hardy) before I was spotted by a rather large WWE security guard who swiftly escorted me out of the building.

    I’m sure that had I been wearing a t-shirt and shorts or jeans and generally looked like another fan I would have never have gotten as far as I did.

  • Matt Raymond February 24, 2014, 9:42 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Brett.

  • Ken February 21, 2014, 1:40 pm

    Always dress for success. Whether in business or in graphing. Nice clothes and a nice bag are important.

  • JT July 12, 2014, 11:55 pm

    Very well written. It’s true that sometimes in this hobby we get caught up with all of the other hounds who dress like the guy on the right. Sometimes you need to separate yourself from the pack and dress to kill. I’ve had great success when I dress up like a pro and get inside the building. The only time it didn’t work was with David Beckham. I wore a suit and had jersey hidden inside a leather briefcase when I snuck into the hotel and waited for him in the lobby. As soon as I saw him, I approached gently and he absolutely blew a fuse, pointing at me like I was a dog and swearing his head off!

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