Items That Every Man In The Performing Arts Should Own

Now I have been involved in various activities in choir, theatre, and dance for the past seven years. There are certain items of clothing and toiletries that you will constantly use as you get more involved in the performing arts. What I discover is that some guys just don’t have some of the essential items that are needed on the stage. Now I’m sure that many of my guy-performing arts friends already own these items however I know there are also many that don’t. I’m not saying this is the end all list and perhaps you have been able to get by without these items. However these are the things that I use the most and that I constantly need for performances. I personally couldn’t live without these items. This list is what works for me however you may find things on here that you use and don’t use. I just think if someone who is totally new to say like show choir or musical theatre, I think this is a good foundation to prepare you as you are starting out.

White Dress Shirt

Black Dress Pants

Black Dress Shoes

Long Black Socks


Black Tie

Optional bonus: Black Bow Tie

Now the above items are like a packaged deal. There are just countless times that you will need to provide a white dress shirt and black dress pants (especially for choral music). Black dress shoes are a man’s primary footwear on the stage. While costumes may be provided for a show black dress shoes are usually not. Regardless of costumes black dress socks are a must. Black Dress socks give a clean and professional look. The worst thing is seeing a guy in slacks and a button up and seeing white socks peek out from the slacks. If you have white socks on your director will catch you and you will be asked to provide black dress socks. You will need a tie sooner or later. You just will. The white shirt, black pants, and black tie look is classic and it always works. So have a black tie on hand. Now bow ties are usually not needed however I own one and it has been very helpful in spicing up costumes (plus girls will fawn over you instantly).

Now the next bit is very geared to the male, so females that don’t want to hear this just skip over this section (which I am conveniently outlining using underscores cause I am such a fantastic designer…please note the sarcasm)


Undergarments are a no brainer. You will be changing in front of people so you need to be modest. Plus when you are wearing costumes provided by a costumer that are not your personal property it is so gross when you don’t wear an undershirt beneath that. Especially cause you will be sweating. It’s a given. Performers sweat all the time. White crewnecks or V-Necks are the best way to go. I’d say avoid tank tops because the outline of the tank top shows through a shirt (especially under stage lighting) and I find that distracting whereas as a T-Shirt provides a solid and cleaner look (Men give me your opinions on undershirts because some people disagree with me and I’ve been trying to get down to the bottom of which is the best option) In terms of boxers vs briefs I say go with boxer briefs. I just joined this bandwagon a couple of months ago and they are much more comfortable. Also they…how do I put this politically correct “keep everything together”. Usually when men get into more advanced dance lessons they need to wear a dance belt which does that. I’ve never needed a dance belt so I don’t think you need to go out and get one until you are required to have one but I think boxer briefs are the best option to provide support and comfort.


Overall these above items are of absolute importance and are a crucial investment. If you are tight on money you can easily find these items for cheap at a thrift store. So be prepared and have these items and never show up to dress rehearsal with the wrong shoes and socks ever again.

Now the next few items some people get away with but they help me.

Hair Gel or Hairspray

102808hairproducts3You need to keep that hair in place. Now my hair is very soft and bushy and I find that gel works best for me. Some men prefer hairspray. Generally men need their hair to be combed nicely. Also you will be moving around a ton and your hair can become reckless so be prepared and use some type of product to keep it in place. Men need to put some effort into their hair on stage so don’t go without these products. Also it is a good idea to have it on the go. You never know what the elements have in store. Your hair can be messed up walking from the parking lot to the theater so have some product on hand to fix your hair throughout the show if needed.

Jazz or Tennis shoes

9063_9064-Black-Tennis-Shoes1For rehearsals you need good closed toed shoes. Generally tennis shoes are always acceptable. I notice most men prefer tennis shoes (just part of our manliness) Rehearsal is similar to working out, you will be active and you want to be comfortable. However jazz shoes are pretty popular as well. I find jazz shoes much easier to dance in compared to tennis shoes. For a good period of time in my performing career jazz shoes were expected by my directors and choreographers however I’ve noticed that the expectation has gone down. You never know though when you will encounter a dance heavy show and the audition will want their men in jazz shoes. Last thing is that when I see a guy in jazz shoes at an audition I’m inclined to think he has more dance experience in comparison to the guys in tennis shoes. It can help you stand out in the crowd. So I think jazz shoes are a good investment. However you can survive without them if you really don’t feel any need to get some or if you’re low on money. At the end of the day just make sure you have comfortable closed toed shoes.

Gym Clothes

As I said before,during rehearsal you want to be comfortable and unrestricted by your clothing. Wear shirts that you feel comfortable in and will absorb your sweat. Sweatpants or gym shorts are essential, especially when dancing. Never show up to a dance rehearsal or show run through in jeans. You can’t do anything in jeans and I don’t care if you are one of those skinny boys that manages to do the splits in their skinny jeans. It is just not okay and if I was choreographing and I saw you waltz in with jeans I’d ask you to sit out for you are not ready for rehearsal. Invest in gym shorts and/or sweatpants (that will fit, the worst thing is constantly pulling up your shorts or pants during a 3 hour rehearsal).


I can’t stand smelly dressing rooms. Always bathe and apply deodorant. This is a no brainer but some people don’t get the memo and everyone else can smell it.

Drawstring Bag

105MROY-DRAWSTRING-BAG-backNow men like to keep everything in their pockets. I know I do. My phone, wallet, and watch are my most essential life items. During rehearsals (especially dance rehearsals) you can’t have things flying out of your pockets and you definitely can’t have these things on you on stage. The biggest life saver for me has been the drawstring bag. These are cheap to get and they store everything. You can keep your personal belongings in there in addition to other things like changes of clothes, water, hair product, and other important items you need for shows. I don’t know what I’d do without mine.

So there you go. This is my list of essential items that are always incredibly beneficial to me when I’m doing shows. Tell me what items help you out. This isn’t the end all list. We can go into more advanced tiers of items and all sorts of different scenarios but I think this is a good foundation for any man starting in performing arts, plus these items will help you in your daily lives in so many ways.

-Terry Dopson.

Posted on October 18, 2013 by


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