On the morning of March 5 after I got dressed, I looked at fellow UW Election Eye contributor Ilona Idlis and said, “This totally looks like something a politician would wear, doesn’t it?”
That statement later became eerie as we geared up to cover Rep. Ron Paul’s rally in Sandpoint, Idaho. Photographic evidence below:
I call it the “All-American” look – blue denim jeans, a plaid button-up shirt, and a cozy red sweater. We were both sporting black boots as well.
Fashion is a serious consideration for candidates: one doesn’t want to look too formal, or too casual. It’s hard to go wrong at a rally in the “All-American” piece. I was a bit surprised by Paul’s copycat outfit because he’s not often spotted without a suit and tie.
Coverage focuses more on fashion when women are in the race. In 2008, Sarah Palin faced a scandal when the RNC splurged more than $150,000 on her outfits. Beyond costs, there’s style; women don’t have the fallback suit-and-tie. The fashion police have praised Michele Bachmann for her fresh professional and feminine style, but have scorned Hillary Clinton for her requisite pantsuit as not feminine enough.
Men can have trademark looks too. Exhibit A is Rick Santorum: I’ve not seen so many sweater vests since I last went through my dad’s closet or saw Chandler on “Friends.” Santorum even sported one in the campaign video he sent to the Ada County caucus in Boise on Super Tuesday.
Pundits had a field day with Al Gore and his consultant, Women’s Studies scholar and author Naomi Wolf, in the 2000 election. As a part of her recommendations many speculated that she provided fashion advice and changed his suit colors to earth tones, even though the campaign and others have noted her role was to advise Gore on women’s issues and concerns.
While it’s a side note to the real political goings-on — policies, speeches, campaigns, and debates — wearing the wrong thing could impact a candidate’s message to voters. Who could forget that American flag lapel pin debate in 2008?
At this point in the Republican Party presidential race, those still standing will be rolling up their sleeves — figuratively and literally — for the next round of primaries.