ASCII by Jason Scott

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A Thing With Feathers —

The challenge to make my presentation outfits more enjoyably outrageous continues, and it escalates.

Nobody is telling me my outfits need to be outrageous, of course – I just know, in my heart, that it’s what needs to be done. Just like I know that digging in intractably on the principles of protecting user data needs to be done, or that spending years helping people port some huge codebase into javascript needs to be done. It must be done, it must be.

Anyway, I was still fishing around for a combination of striking and not insanely expensive for my presentation at Build Conference 2013 (Belfast, Ireland), when it came out of the blue – black angel wings with a formal outfit.

This worked out.

(The rest of the set, and the other photos of me, are by Rachel Lovinger.)

This has resulted in one of my favorite photographs of the last 10 years:


What are my motivations?

Well, first of all, a subset of places I speak at are particularly well-run and particularly careful about treating their audience and presenters well. This includes XOXO Festival, Webstock, dconstruct, and this one, Build. Others are family to me, and definitely done by people who care, but this group of events pay for airfare, hotel, provide excellent lodgings, and activities. They really bring an A-game and hype the presenters to be the best of what they could bring that year – I consider that a challenge, and I feel they’re trusting in me. So I make sure the talks are extra sparkly, and I try to go the extra mile in terms of being available and, if possible, wearing something memorable.

This worked out well.

More than seeing photos of me prancing about in this outfit, this entry is really about the more critical information: the current state of wing-costume purchasing.

The collapse of the industrial sector in the US smashed up against the ubiquity of internet accessibility and online commerce, along with improved manufacturing techniques in materials means this is the best time ever to get a costume with wings.

If you’re just looking to get by with a basic set of feather-laden things on your back and call it a day, the price is somewhere around $20-$30. The wings are not of fantastic quality but they get the job done. They’ll look something like this:

mr6v5Zcb37g4dubuVd1uWhwThere are wings available that are cheaper than $20, but at that point it’s obvious you just don’t give a shit, or you consider nylon dragged across some flexible wire to be a “wing”, instead of the stuff we’re talking about here, with real feathers. Get out of here.

I went for a different class of wing, in the $100-$150 range. Here’s what they looked like on a mannequin at the site I bought them at:

$(KGrHqR,!hgF!ys+5d!sBQR(+Pgqz!~~60_3If it appears I have less wing feathers than the model, here’s why: the secret of all the costumes under a certain price is that feathers fall off. They’re bound by glue onto plastic plates, and they fall off. In my case, they came very well packed, but then I flew from New York City to Belfast with them, with the wings in the cabin, and frankly I’m surprised they survived as well as they did.

I then made the executive decision that fucked-up wings were more bad-ass.

If I had decided that wings were my new “thing”, and that I’d be expected to show up with wings to all later speaking engagements, well, then you start getting into the $500-$2000 range. Yes, that’s right, $2000 for wings. If you want to see what that looks like, it looks like this…

$800 or thereabouts:



And “fuck it, I wanted to buy wings that will strike fear into people”, $1700:



I’m sorry honey – at that point you are no longer going to parties. You are the party. The site that sells this particular model, Dragon Wings, says that this particular costume folds up in four places for easier shipping, in case you want to go on the road with your winged antics. Note that unlike the previous wings that use straps on your shoulders, this one needs an additional belt to keep the whole mess in check. They claim it weighs 17 pounds.

I also brought a pair of backup wings, which ended up being the “social” wings for the post presentation parties. Here’s Rachel and I modeling two different sizes of wings, hers being of the $25 variety, and mine of the $35 variety.



I had a conversation with some folks a ways back at an event I’ve forgotten the details about, and I had one person say “Oh, you’re not gay! I read your blog, I assumed you’re gay.”

Well, OK, let me know how that browser plugin works, but I will say one thing: being interested in making an impression before you say the first syllable of your presentation is for everyone. We fill a room with souls, we make them all spend an hour or two listening to someone pointing at pictures or telling stories, and behind the scenes are people working their asses off to provide the best experience for all involved. Being in people’s minds weeks after comes from a lot of factors, but it doesn’t hurt to walk out on stage and be the best thing in the room. The least you can do is put as much care into proving the person on stage should get your full attention, and then sealing the deal once you tell everyone the great stuff you’re up to and what there is to learn.

Oh, and musicals! I love musicals.




Categorised as: jason his own self | Speaking

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  1. Have I told you yet today how awesome you are?

  2. Mike says:

    Blog post of the fucking year!

  3. Chris Orcutt says:

    I think it’s a great outfit, but next time you should go for the look of that mannequin. :))

  4. datajerk says:

    “Preserve your knowledge, your history, your works, or burn in hell” — Arch(ivist)angle Scott

  5. iPadCary says:

    They do this in Bologna, too.
    They walk around in the street in busy areas as “guardian angels” for confused tourists.

  6. antidefiler says:

    in this entry the following has an error in the hyper link to the XOXO Festival. the link leads to “” and should just be “”. just saying…
    also nice wings.