“I’m a Sign Language Interpreter, What Do I Wear?”

Most Interpreting Training Programs (ITPs) or interpreting agencies will say that all sign language interpreters MUST wear black.

Well, I personally and professionally disagree. Interpreters who have a lighter skin tone are okay with wearing black or any other dark colors because it does not blend in with their skin. If someone with a darker skin tone were to wear black, it would be hard to see their hands after a period of time. If you are an interpreter who interprets in a call center environment (Video Relay System), then regardless of the skin tone, wearing black is okay because of the special lighting that is provided in your cubicle.

So, being that I am an interpreter with a darker skin tone, I wear colors such as white, teal, pink, yellow, ivory, etc. If I’m interpreting for an assignment that is fairly short, I’ll wear the teal, pink, and yellow. However, if I will be interpreting for a few hours, I wear white or ivory. The reason being is because after so long, a Deaf person’s eyes can and will get tired.

Think about it. Deaf people use their eyes (and hands) more than anything else on their body. Choose your outfit for the assignment wisely.

Deaf people use their eyes (and hands) more than anything else on their body. Click To Tweet

Therefore, watching someone interpret in a plaid, polka dot, or top that blends in with your skin can be very tiring to his or her eyes.

I try to be considerate before I get dressed and think about where I am going, how far away I will be from the Deaf person in the setting I will be interpreting in, and  how long I will be interpreting. You wouldn’t want to be the reason why your client missed out on pertinent information, would you?


Let’s see.

I’ve never had an issue with my nails because I am also military so I keep my nails short without any polish. However, I have learned during sub-contract assignments that interpreters who wear any color of nail polish can be tiring to the eyes of a Deaf person. Yes, even French tips. I’ve also learned that the length of your fingernails can be distracting as well.


Big earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and bulky watches can be distracting so think twice before you want to dress up your interpreting outfit.

I have seen interpreters complain about not being able to express themselves through their clothing and what polish they wear on their nails. My advice is to never forget the mission – why did you become an interpreter in the first place? The mission is to help the Deaf community by breaking the communication barriers. The mission is to help the Deaf community by breaking the communication barriers. Click To Tweet

The mission is NOT to express your individuality and make a fashion statement.

If you can’t handle it, then don’t become an interpreter.

It’s not about you. It’s about bridging the communication gap between the hearing and Deaf community.

The same thing goes for my duty as a soldier.  Why did I join the Alabama Army National Guard? It is our responsibility to make sure that our appearance does not take away from the uniform. Therefore my hair can’t be dyed colors that are not natural, and my nails have to be cut short with no nail polish.

Stay focused on the mission and consider where (and how long) you will be interpreting. I hope this helps. This blog post is based on my experiences. I would love to hear yours!

Feel free to like, comment, and share.

Sign on,


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