Friday, 11 January 2008

A sartorial sidelight on the campaign

Obama may have lost the New Hampshire primary, but if this were a fashion contest, he'd have won hands down. Here are a couple of sartorial rules for candidates hoping to come across as presidential:

Rule Number 1: Even if there's two feet of snow and it's freezing outside, never ever wear a sweater under your jacket. John McCain was the worst offender here:

I'm sorry John, you may have won the Republican vote, but to me that sweater just screams 'grandpa'. If it's cold, and you want to look presidential, why not wear an overcoat? (And it's not as if McCain hasn't had problems with sweaters before.)

Rule Number 2 (and the photo above shows McCain breaking this one too): Always wear a tie, especially if you're a man of a certain age. Going tie-less draws attention to those wobbly lines around the neck and, like the sweater, reminds people of your age. Bill Clinton was guilty of the same offence when he appeared open-necked for his notorious 'fairy-tale' speech in New Hampshire. For me, it drove home the message that here was an angry older man resenting the fact that his own time had come and gone:

By contrast, Barack Obama strode through Iowa and New Hampshire wearing a classy suit and tie and looking - well, presidential:

And of all the male candidates, only Barack can get away with the open-necked look. Note to candidates: if you're going to leave the tie at home, make sure you're wearing a tailored suit and expensive shirt - and it probably helps if you're under 50:

Mind you, Obama's easy sartorial image may not be all that it seems. Writing in last autumn's Dissent, David Greenberg described how Barack chose an outdoor setting to announce his candidacy in February and 'struck a Kennedy-esque pose by appearing in a thin topcoat on a freezing day'. What the audience didn't know was that his team had concealed a space heater on the platform. As Greenberg says, it was 'an act of benign contrivance, but contrivance nonetheless.'

Finally, spare a thought for Hillary. If the above rules make it difficult for male candidates to appear presidential, imagine what it's like being the first female candidate. There are no rules, so you have to make up your own. If she's made the occasional fashion error, it's not entirely her own fault:


Roland Dodds said...

I didn’t know that the sweater under the jacket is the grandpa look! I have been going out looking dated for years.

Martin said...

Me too! But then I'm not standing for public office. Actually, I secretly admire McCain for undermining the political machismo that insists candidates pretend not to feel the cold. Although in no way sympathetic to the Republican cause, I prefer his cosy, grandfatherly image to the robotic, squeaky-clean Romney.

Roland Dodds said...

Hey Martin, I am assuming that you are backing Obama at this moment in time. If that is the case, have you posted a piece as to why, and if have not done so, do you plan to?

That’s assuming your backing him in this election. I am interested to see what your reasoning is behind your vote.

Martin said...

Hi Roland

Maybe it's presumptuous of us Brits to back any of the candidates - probably counts as unwarranted foreign interference!

As a social democrat and liberal, I tend towards the Democrats. As for which of the candidates best reflects my views, I'm still unsure. Obama has excited a number of us over here - but I'm not sure we've done the hard work yet of examining his policy proposals and comparing them with Clinton's and Edwards'.

I'm working up to writing a post on this - but haven't had the time to formulate it properly yet.


Roland Dodds said...

Pssh, I put my nose into every countries politics and comment when I see fit! It may be presumptuous, but I figure I will call them like I see them. I hope folks from all around the world do the same with the States.