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The Trade Show Red Carpet: The Best and Worst Dressed List



People-watching at a trade show is second best to only an airport or a department store. You see all kinds. However, we’re not talking about the trade show attendees here, we’re talking about the booth staff.

Yes, you, with the company shirts and chinos!

If you are a seasoned exhibitor, then you know how the story goes. If you’re not, take notes because these tips will keep you comfortable and help you look like a pro.


Shoes are probably the first and most important wardrobe item you think about when planning what to wear for a trade show.

Don’t be ambitious or freak out at the last moment thinking you need to wear a new pair of shoes. Both men and women will have blisters on Day 1 and if you are wearing new shoes it will be all the worse!

You don’t want to end up buying a package of plasters on Day 2 because you can’t take the pain of blisters that have burst open – I’m just pointing this out to try to spare you some pain.

Men, wear some comfortable shoes and have them shined at the cobbler or the airport. Your feet will thank you.

Women, if you want fashion, there are fashionable shoes that are actually comfortable as well – Find and invest in them. It’s a worthwhile investment. Just make sure to wear them in before the day!


Many trade show booth staff must wear company shirts. If this is the case, ask if gender specific shirts and appropriate sizes can be ordered.

It is so obvious and looks awful when you see booth staff that are all wearing a men’s shirt that someone bought thinking they could be a “one size fits all” (but in reality is a ‘one size fits no-one!”

Choose a shirt that is appropriate for a business meeting, because that is exactly what your staff will be doing all day, every day of the show. When trade show booth staff look professional and feel comfortable, they act with confidence and that is exactly what you want your booth staff to do.


Trying your outfit on the night before you pack for your trip is a huge risk. If your trousers don’t fit properly (for example if you have gained or lost a couple of lbs), you will have no time to buy new ones.

Please try your trousers on a week before your pack for the trip. If they don’t fit then you have a few days to go shopping. Nothing is more annoying or embarrassing than fiddling with ill fitting clothes all the way through a trade show.

If you remember anything, remember this – Trousers with pockets. Ok, maybe just remember “pockets.”

You will be handling business cards, pens, and breath mints at a fast pace. You might need to step out to make a call or buy some food and you need space for your mobile and some money.

If you don’t want pockets on your trousers then have them in a jacket or skirt. Say it with me, “pockets, pockets, pockets.”

Alternatively you could always go for a bum bag or money belt.

Just remember to dress smartly for your potential clients.

Accessories, personal hygiene, and other details


Men and women, if you’re going to wear jewellery, have it be professional and minimal. Flashy chains or the clang of bracelets is distracting and unprofessional. If the trade show is related to the fashion industry then allowances can be made.

Perfume/ Cologne

Less is more is the guideline for perfume or cologne, if you wear it at all. You have one chance to make a first impression. Don’t take the risk of overpowering them with your personal hygiene.


You don’t need to have a professional manicure, but your hands should be clean and presentable. Use lotion to cure dry skin, trim your nails to look uniformly clean. If you had to assemble the booth, you don’t want your hands to let other people know you did.

Dirty nails or chipped nail polish are a huge no-no!


Mints, mints, and more mints. Part of making a good first impression and making your way through small talk or a sales pitch with a prospect is having good breath.

Coffee breath, lunch breathe, cigarette breath. No, no, and no.

Also make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, this has the added bonus of helping your breath to remain fresh!

You might not be walking the Red Carpet at BAFTA, but you are walking the Red Carpet within your industry, representing your company, and that can almost be the same thing.


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