A Perspective on Fashion and the 2020 Presidential Election

A Perspective on Fashion and the 2020 Presidential Election
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It’s said that “Clothes maketh the man.” It follows that we pay particular attention to political candidates not only for their policies and plans, but also for the kind of clothes, cut, and color they favor and carry off. It’s no wonder then that candidates choose their outfits and look with care. Who can forget Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits? She was criticized as much for her boxy, unflattering clothes as she was for her policies.

The preoccupation with fashion has not abated with the impending presidential election. What choices do candidates lean toward? For men, it’s the ubiquitous, nondescript suit and tie. There are some exceptions — For example, John Hickenlooper. Dark pants and matching blazer, outer vest unbuttoned, and no tie. Pass him on the street, and you wouldn’t be wrong to think he was boss at a conglomerate. A sense of independence is the vibe. What about Steve Bullock’s boots and belt? It gave off cowboy look; it could be a signal that he’s home-grown, salt of the earth kind of man.

Kamala Harris is stylish and not afraid of sleek shoes and stilettos. But she pairs these up with a blazer-skirt combination, and unobtrusive accessories. Her presence is assertive, the look smart-casual. While her accessories seem like a personal selection, she doesn’t think conservative- for example that gorgeous black pearl necklace at the debate in August certainly drew attention. Her sleek hair and poised mien makes for a well-groomed experience. Even in her recent footwear choice, sneakers, she gives the impression of being hard-working.

Elizabeth Warren comes across as sensible, no-nonsense woman. Her go-to jewelry is a small pair of pearl studs. It conveys a sense of timelessness and purpose. That she wears them more often than not means there’s a sense of consistency about her. It’s a connection that’s familiar – in a voter’s mind, this translates into familiarity with the candidate too. Her pumps are also meant to give the sense of dependability and trust.

For Bernie Sanders, it’s also all about the connection. The Vermont senator’s go-to clothes almost look like a workforce uniform — a light blue shirt and dark blue pants. For good measure, he also rolls up his sleeves. The image is one of a hardworking older person who wants to get the job done for you. His sense of style can be described in two words: not important. He dresses as though he wants to say, “Look, I don’t care about fashion. I am here for the WORK. Let’s do that.”. In fact, he seems to dress to convey that- jackets and shirts that are a tad too large for him. We need to understand that this doesn’t make for a shabby or untidy appearance. But, we do think, “Hey, his sense of style is familiar. Where have I seen it? Ah yes, my uncle dresses this way.” The trust factor comes in instantly.

Former Vice President Joe Biden dresses the same way, but makes a difference because he dons loafers, not lace-ups and a fancy belt. You may occasionally see him sporting an Apple watch — straddling old and young all at the same time. In fact, he switches his looks up quite often. Sometimes it’s even a leather jacket and a baseball cap. Biden seems to be telling people that he’s one of them. For Bernie and Biden, blue is the working class worker uniform.

Blue and red. The colors of the American flag are reflected in the combination that the present president favors above all else. No off-the-rack stuff for him; Donald Trump prefers tailored dark blue suits coupled them with a bright red tie. He wants his voters to believe that he can be trusted, that he is the American dream. Red is not only a strong color, but an aggressive one as well. That he is tenacious is a well-known fact. Blue is a shade one associates with self-assurance as well. Even when he is terribly wrong, one thing the man does not lack is confidence.

Democratic hopeful Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez does not shy away from making avant-garde choices. Even if her designer threads and shoes at a photo shoot were borrowed, it’s still a fact that she represents a shift in sensibility. She wears fire engine red lipstick, large hoop earrings, two watches (one is an Apple), and has large buttons on her white suit. White, as we know, is the suffragette shade.

Women are scrutinised way more than men. It’s a tough balance they are called to strike — to be attractive but not sexy, to only be about the work, but still be lovely doing so. Will Fashion First be the mantra for the elections? A nice analysis of fashion psychology and the Presidential race can be accessed here.

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