Fashion and politics are definitely not two words we often find coming together, yet both resonate from a world where influence and a sense of leadership are key factors. What would a politician or a fashion designer be without followers? Fashion exists as a form of art, while politics stems from the need for conduct and uniformity in society. Both have existed across centuries, and are easily the most ancient by existence in terms of leadership. Let’s be honest, even cavemen had to wear something, and, for the most part, followed someone.
"Fashion is beneath thinking people"
In the opinion column of kincardinenews.com, Laura Payton wrote “Fashion is beneath thinking people, it would seem, so those who write about the economy or foreign policy shouldn’t divert their attention to such frivolity. But to ignore political fashion is to ignore the marketing of a politician.” She also wrote in reference to Justin Truedeau, the 23rd prime minister of Canada and the leader of the liberal party: “Trudeau’s team has branded him as a blend of authentic, young and able to connect with strangers -- accompanied by his own photographer to capture it all for Twitter and Instagram. Trudeau’s may be a flashier example of how politicians use clothes to market themselves, but a look at former prime minister, Stephen Harper, is just as instructive. Harper drew little attention for what he wore (aside from the odd time it went incredibly wrong because of ill-fitting garments), favoring basic suits and unremarkable ties.”
The idea here is that politicians often lean on fashion statements, bold and subtle, to connect and communicate with voters. The reality is that not only are people noticing, but they are also finding a way in which they can relate. That just seems to be human nature; we need to relate to things to feel connected and relevant in the world around us. The correlation between fashion and politics may not seem obvious, but if we examine it closely, the parallels between both run rather deep.
Let’s take 2016 elections into account for a second. Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton. Robert
Givhan, a fashion critic for the Washington Post, has made various comments on Trump’s style.
“When Trump the businessman entered the public consciousness in the 1980s, his signature look was etched for the ages. He emerged as a man who preferred a formal uniform: dark suit, French cuffs, power tie. What was once the style of a man in his virile prime has become the look of a man clinging to it. Trump’s suits are expensive, but they don’t look high-class; they exude empathy for working-class Joes — who, polls say, are his strongest supporters.
[T]here is an ornery, nostalgic quality to the attire of the man who wants to ‘Make America Great Again.’”
Meanwhile, Leah Bourne writes in the fashion segment of New York Post on Hillary Clinton: “Hillary Clinton’s New York primary victory speech in April focused on topics including income inequality, job creation and helping people secure their retirement. It was a clear attempt to position herself as an everywoman. But an everywoman she is not — she gave the speech in a $12,495 Giorgio Armani tweed jacket. Just like Clinton’s fashion choices of the past, the makeover could turn out to be divisive. On one side will be those who say it’s an appropriate expense for Clinton, given that she’s in the unprecedented position of running for president as a woman — and looking the part is crucial to her success. On the other side are those who will see her spending as being out of touch with her message.”
Historically, women have been deterred from playing a significant role in politics as men. “Tragically, gender inequality in American politics is nothing new but a problem that even in 2015 still remains far from its alleviation.” (Haney, Melissa). Having said that, many women have come up taking serious roles in politics and are making their presence felt in an impactful way. In terms of fashion, people might look to the Kardashians or even pop singers, but we certainly cannot have people dressing like Miley Cyrus for a job interview.
In an article in the New York Times (Jun.10, 2014) it was stated, “It really makes no sense at all, when you think about it, that we are supposed to take our dressing cues from 20-something celebrities (or celebrities who may be closer to 30-something or even 40-something but who have been made to look 20-something thanks to airbrushing and other sorts of photo magic), most of whom are, in fact, not even dressing themselves and certainly are not dressing themselves for pitching a new client or negotiating a deal or teaching.” (Friedman, Vanessa)
Like it or not, fashion is a form of self-expression and freedom of speech, even without words. It not only speaks volumes about a person’s character, but also reflects an individual to the world around him or her. It enables us to tell so much from the fitting, patterns, color scheme, access-ories, or in some cases the lack of accessories, so on and so forth..
Some people try to hard, yet never find the look they need, while other “people tend to freeze their style at a point when they feel they are at their best,” as Givhan says. Either way, it is blatant- ly visible how deeply fashion reflects a politician, or even just an individual, and so essentially, though it doesn’t seem to be a direct factor, fashion has a significant role in the image politicians carry and the messages they want to send.