As drummers, we often put a lot of thought into the equipment we use when performing. We methodically select particular sticks, drumheads, and hardware to suit our style, along with suitable cymbals and other accessories.
Something that is often overlooked is the outfits that we choose to wear when playing. In reality, this is equally as important as all of the other gear I’ve just mentioned.
Not only do drummer clothing styles affect how you look, but they also impact how comfortable you feel when playing – that’s why it’s vitally important to think about what you should be wearing in order to play to the best of your ability.
In this guide, we’ll provide a breakdown of drummer outfit ideas so that you can assess which options will best suit your style of playing.
Drummer Outfit Ideas
Drumming is a highly physical activity that requires you to use all four limbs and to have the flexibility required to use the kick, snare, toms, hats, and cymbals simultaneously. Therefore, it’s essential that you consider comfort when deciding on what to wear.
Most popular drummers play with light vests or T-shirts, but many rock and metal drummers, such as Blink 182’s Travis Barker, choose to play without a shirt on.
As long as you’re not playing in a particularly cold environment, this is arguably the most comfortable option! However, if you’re looking for a more stylish look, then there are some other ways to achieve this level of comfort that doesn’t involve going shirtless!
The Top Half
When it comes to choosing a top for drumming, the best choice for comfort is a vest. A vest won’t constrict your arms or restrict your range of motion, and it’s also lightweight enough so that you don’t overheat.
Some famous vest-wearing drummers include Chad Smith of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, the late Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters, Danny Carey of Tool, and Shannon Leto of 30 Seconds to Mars.
Second to vests in terms of comfort is the classic T-Shirt. Ideally, T-shirts worn for drumming should be baggy enough to allow free movement of your arms and body without being so oversized that they droop down onto your snare.
Sweatshirts, tank tops, and hoodies can all work well, too, as long as they are not too tight. Cotton is usually the best material for breathability and comfort.
When it comes to bottoms, the most comfortable drumming clothes is usually a pair of shorts. Shorts provide maximum flexibility and breathability, and they’re my preferred choice as I find them to be ideal for quick movements when using the kick pedals and controlling the hi-hat clutch.
I’ve found that the shorts must be loose enough around the thighs to ensure that they don’t cause any tension when stomping on the bass drum pedal. Many other drummers, such as Matt Helders of Arctic Monkeys or Dave Grohl of Nirvana, are commonly seen wearing shorts when drumming.
Another option if you don’t like wearing shorts is sweatpants. Sweatpants offer a similar level of flexibility as shorts, and they can also add a touch of style to your look. Some popular sweatpants-wearing drummers include Dave Lombardo of Slayer and Joey Jordison of Slipknot.
Jeans can be worn too, although they can be restrictive and often cause discomfort when playing due to their stiffness.
It’s also likely that you’ll get very hot when wearing jeans at an indoor gig, which could lead to sweating and potentially having issues gripping your sticks – something most drummers have experienced!
Other Drummer Stage Clothing to Consider
Although it’s quite rare, some drummers will choose to wear drumming gloves. This can be beneficial in some situations, such as if you struggle to grip the sticks or if you suffer from a hand condition that may affect your playing.
Drummers who have used drumming gloves include Dave Weckl and Phil Collins, although the majority of drummers opt for bare hands.
The type of shoes you wear when drumming can also have an impact on your playing comfort. Drumming shoes that are too tight, such as high-tops or pointed boots, could restrict your ankle and foot mobility which may affect your playing ability when using the kick drum pedal.
On the other end of the extremes, flip flops may seem like they’d be comfortable, but they won’t provide enough protection for your feet and can be dangerous if you’re not careful, as you could catch your toes on the hardware when playing.
The best option for comfort when drumming is usually a pair of lightweight, flat-soled sneakers. These will provide enough grip to keep your feet on the pedals but won’t be too constricting around the ankles and toes.
Popular drummers who wear flat shoes include Lars Ulrich of Metallica and Tre Cool of Green Day.
Wearing large boots or smart shoes is not recommended, as this will likely slow down your footspeed and make it more difficult to play fast bass drum strokes with techniques such as the heel toe method.
Some drummers like prefer to wear only socks when playing, but I personally find it can be too slippy against the pedals, and it also leaves your feet exposed and unprotected.
Image and Aesthetics
Another important thing to think about when choosing your outfits for drumming is how it impacts your stage presence. Although this may vary depending on the genre of music you’re playing, having a well-coordinated outfit can make you look professional and give your performance an extra edge.
For example, if you are performing rock or metal music it may be best to choose clothing with dark colors such as black or navy blue. If you are in a more contemporary or funk/soul band, then drummer clothes with brighter colors and patterns may be more suitable.
The key thing to remember is that there are no rules to follow – it’s simply about ensuring that the outfit your wear does three three things:
- Makes you feel comfortable
- Fits with the image of your band
- Enhances stage presence
Stage presence is something that is mostly associated with the vocalist, guitarist or sometimes the bassist of a band, but just because you’re sitting down when playing the drums, you still impact the overall image of the band.
If you’re wearing something that expresses your own individual and unique style while remaining in line with the style of the other band members, you’re onto a winner. This will help to increase your confidence and, in turn, enhance your performance.
Musical Styles & Tradition
If you’re wondering how to dress like a drummer, then depending on the style of music that you play, you may need to observe certain traditions when it comes to choosing your outfits for performances.
For example, orchestral drummers often wear all black, as do marching drummers, while azz musicians may opt for more classic or vintage looks, such as three-piece suits and bow ties, and big band drummers will generally wear a tuxedo.
Ultimately, your outfit should be whatever makes you feel comfortable and reflects your own style as an individual – while still considering the tradition of the genre you are playing.
Rock drummers like Mitch Mitchell of The Jimi Hendrix Experience or Keith Moon of The Who wore eccentric outfits, often with psychedelic patterned shirts and colorful trousers. While this may not have been the most comfortable option, it certainly gave them a unique style that fitted the music they played.