Dressing Like A Journalist: A Primer on Spencer’s Style

Extra, extra! Read all about how Spencer likes to dress!

In the eight years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve only now realized that I’ve never really dived deep into Spencer’s style. Granted, you probably “get” his style by seeing it or by reading my analysis of his fits included in my various blog posts. If you listen to the Style & Direction podcast, you’ll also get his style philosophy directly. But in terms of written canonization, we simply haven’t done it yet.

Until now.

Spencer looks like he could be a journalist.

It’s easy to look at Spencer’s style and boil it down to being “rugged ivy”. His trad stuff like OCBDs, knit ties, and loafers are mixed in with elements of workwear and milsurp (usually in the form of pants and jackets) to create a look that is…hard to nail down formality-wise. It’s casual but put together, a bit dressy but also not. But while his attire fits neatly into one of #menswear’s many sub genres, I always preferred to categorize based on his interests and [future] career: Journalist (or reporter) Style.

It’s always more interesting to look at someone’s attire as an extension of what they actually do (or want to do). This doesn’t mean that a profession or even an activity has a uniform, but that if you looked at someone wearing an outfit and found out that they did X, you probably wouldn’t be surprised. I think that definitely applies to Spencer. When you look at his attire and you found out that he was studying journalism, you would probably go “oh that makes plenty of sense”. Again, a journalist or reporter can wear almost anything nowadays, but there’s something specific about Spencer’s vision for his attire that just makes sense.

Like his writing procedure as a journalist (he hates how I write lol), Spencer is succinct and straightforward. Despite us having similar philosophy and overall taste in classic menswear, his expressed style is much more honed in with a narrow area of execution. I’d wager that this was formed the more he dove into his degree and started getting real journalistic experience; he no longer needed (or wanted) to be in full suits and ties all the time. When you’ve gotta be on the go with multiple pens, papers, and recorders on you, garments with multiple pockets and can take a beating become your best friends. Though as he says in the podcast below, a sportcoat is still plenty practical (and helps with looking put together for interviewees).

Overall, the episode below is a good case study in Cinematic Dressing, with Spencer explaining the different moves and details that come from practicality as well as what he envisions what a journalist or reporter would wear. Obviously, you all know that Spencer has other “characters” in his pocket that show themselves when we Go Out or have some other menswear event. But perhaps even those could be considered quirky journalist attire, just on their days off.

Anyway, here’s Wonderwall Spencer’s thoughts on the little style “core” that he’s attracted to. He wrote the following essay and provided all the captions for this blog post.

Journalists are generally not known for their style. Stepping into most newsrooms (the ones that are still open anyway), you’ll find most men clad in performance poly-blend khakis with boxy button-down collar shirts or hoodies with jeans, depending on the age of the reporter. 

“You had the feeling they weren’t terribly interested in looking smart,” said Betty Jerman, who began working at The Guardian as a columnist in 1951, describing the male reporters on staff. “They were more interested in what they were writing.” 

“Reporter style” is my attempt to codify the aesthetic of the 20th century shoe-leather without sacrificing too much in practicality. The look comes from personal observation of the journalists I have interacted with professionally, famed journalists of the last century and of course, the image of the reporter that was created by Hollywood in films like “All the President’s Men” or “The Parallax View”.

As I define it, Reporter Style must be versatile, as you don’t always know what your assignment may be that day- your outfit has to be appropriate whether you are going to court to cover a murder trial, or visiting a senior care facility to write about a resident celebrating their 100th birthday. It must be distinctive enough that event organizers or communication directors can recognize you in a crowd, but not too much that you become a distraction while you are wandering around a room looking for the right angle for a photo. It must be approachable and professional so that you don’t put off potential interview sources. And most importantly, it must be practical and durable, with enough pockets to carry notebooks, pens, voice recorders, extra camera batteries, and anything else you may need to lug around while on assignment.

This look is equally inspired by the ivy style worn by reporters on the east coast or Robert Redford as Bob Woodward, rugged foreign correspondents who lugged around tape recorders and typewriters through dangerous war zones and the working class reporters that occupied newsrooms before the profession required a college degree. Jeans or military chinos paired with durable sport coats with comfortable shoes like chukka boots or loafers will do fine for most story assignments. Swap the sport coat for a jungle jacket or field jacket in more extreme environments. 


I like practical clothes. Aesthetically, I find a lot of beauty in technical garments before moisture-wicking, stretchy performance fabrics became ubiquitous. The performance had to be physically engineered in the garment, through pleats, vents, and straps that not only serve a purpose, but look cool as hell. I enjoy showing that I am just as prepared and ready-to-go in leather shoes and a sport coat as the guy wearing sneakers and a hoodie.  

I’m lucky in that the clothing I like lends itself well to my chosen profession. Reporter style is how I hone my style, making it more personal and authentic. It lets me broadcast my passions, values, and interests. There isn’t much room for creative expression in journalistic writing, so this is my outlet. 

Reporter Style is how I broadcast my passions, values and interests to the world. 

– Spencer Otte


Podcast Outline

  • 08:16 – Intro
  • 11:59 – What Makes Up Journalist Style?
  • 28:05 – Spencer’s Approach
  • 47:34 – Ethan Style Preview
  • 50:12 – Pragmatism of Journalist Style
  • 56:42 – Wrap-up

Pete Hamill of The New York Post

Jimmy Breslin, The New York Daily News
Morley Safer and Don Hewitt

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, The Washington Post

Ben Bradlee, The Washington Post

Seymour Hersh, The New York Times

Martin Tolchin, The New York Times/ The Hill
Michael Herr, war correspondent for Esquire
Anthony Lewis, The New York Times
Sydney Schanberg, the New York Times and New York Newsday

Ernie Pyle, war correspondent for the Scripps-Howard newspaper syndicate.

Horst Faas, The Associated Press
Marguerite Higgins, New York Herald Tribune
Elizabeth Becker,The Washington Post
Kate Webb, United Press International
Sean Flynn
Tom Buckley, The New York Times

(Left to right) Tim Page, Life Magazine and Clare Hollingworth, Daily Telegraph

Tom Wolfe, New York Herald and New York Daily Tribune

“Spotlight” looks pretty accurate for more contemporary journalist style.

This jacket has a dedicated newspaper pocket!
OCBD and chinos- classic biz-cas.
Safari jackets and shoes with commando soles are reporter style staples.
Same with military surplus.
Ball caps and sport coatshit the right balance of professional and practical.



Ther ripped jeans make this more of a Village Voice reporter look.
I love clothing with dedicated pen pockets, like this WWII USMC utility jacket.

Reporters and photo-journalists sometimes wear fishing gear just for the pockets.




This jacket has an extra double-pocket sewn on. Practical!

I won’t put a press badge in the band.









Pretend that’s a press badge.



Looks like this are more “independent, subversive journalists” than New York Times reporter.








Even when I wear sport coats, I like sturdy, hard-wearing fabrics.



This work shirt has a huge pocket that can fit a full-sized reporter’s notebook. I’ve thought about having it reproduced!
Brass button blazers give the outfit east-coast vibes while the hat and jeans keep it grounded in the west.
Practical layering!

These chukka boots are my favorite shoes when I’m on my feet covering a story.
Big coats like this Barbour Gamefair are perfect for reporter style.
Turtlenecks as a base layer feel very 70s, perfect for reporter style!
Muted tones are best for reporter style. You don’t want your clothing to be a distraction.


Maybe next time we’ll need Ethan to codify his style…or at least give a thematic idea (outside of what we’ve already done on this blog).

Don’t forget to support us on Patreon to get some extra content and access to our exclusive Discord. We occasionally stream on  Twitch, but you can watch the clips on Youtube.

Oh and don’t forget, we do a podcast every two weeks!


 EthanMWong | StyleandDirection

The Podcast is produced by MJ.

Big thank you to our top tier Patrons (the SaDCast Fanatics): Philip, Shane, Jarek, Henrik and Alexander.

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