If you’ve been around this production madness long enough to know an input from an output, you’ve heard the jokes. You’ve identified the truth. You’ve done the math.
Show crews almost always wear black, even when they don’t have to. Any exception to that rule is usually going to be someone very high or very low in the pecking order.
I’ve had this verified many times. Going dark becomes a choice. But until recently, I’d never considered why. Additional “deep questions” along these lines: Why is laundry day the same for production folks? Why do we panic at the smell of bleach? But I digress…
Anyway, why does the ninja look hold so much appeal? I’ve come up with a few seemingly logical reasons for the chosen wardrobe, even beyond how incredibly cool we look.
1. Black blends into the background during lighted events.
Yeah, I went for the obvious one first. But the fact is that if the attention of the paying customers is drawn away from the focus of the evening payroll, there’s a problem.
I learned early that the audience normally only knows that we’re in the room when we goof something up. Would it be better to watch the new kid trip over some cables, rip down half of the stage gear, and roll out into the audience dressed as a shadow or in a yellow leisure suit? Even in those situations, we’re still leaning towards anything that’s more discrete.
2. It’s less of an impediment with digital consoles and tablets.
Face the facts. The production world is predominantly digital now, taking away tons of knobs and buttons but adding glass screens to access control functions. Considering the likelihood of cracks and French fry grease interfering with the view, a tie-dyed tour T-shirt only adds to the challenge of finding that perfect plugin.
My wife can spot a fingerprint on a glass screen from another room. The very sight of my iPad with all of its weird smudges makes her crazy. But it only bothers me when I have to look around my own reflection to see anything on the screen. Black helps keep us from moving around like a chicken dodging bullets just to see what we’re working on.
3. I seem to have ripped my pants…
In the event of tearing a sleeve on rigging, losing the sole of a shoe on a liftgate, or going “all in” and rupturing a pants seam when someone finally says “three,” the abundant supply of black gaff tape we keep on hand suddenly finds renewed purpose. Newbies may not have experienced this yet, but veterans of the biz have likely patched up an outfit or two in this manner.
Hopefully, fate is kind and you never expose your backside to the audience while repairing a multicore cable savagely torn from an amp rack during a show (an actual event in my history). Even without problems that could make you an involuntary YouTube sensation, you might still want to stick some spare tape strips on your duds.
When I worked as a system tech, it wasn’t uncommon to find random bits of tape decorating my show clothes. It’s amazing how often a readily accessible collection of 6- to 12-inch tape strips come in handy during production.
In fact, I usually stuck a few on my pant legs for quick remedies on distracting logos, loose stands, and escaping cables. That extra fuzz the tape pulls up from your britches also keeps it from transferring the goo onto podiums, racks, and the mouths of arrogant lighting techs.
So, there they are. Three moderately logical reasons why the crew always wears black. Now get back to work.