Author: Ben Tuthill
By the time you’re reading this, America will have elected our next president. Today marks the symbolic start of a new era of American politics; four more years of potential, change, and progress. Are you excited? Lucky you. I’m just preparing myself for four more years of bad presidential style.
Can you imagine what it was like in November 1961? Eight years of some frumpy guy from Texas, and then you get this young, good-looking guy who looks like he just hopped off a yacht. If #menswear existed in the Kennedy era, just imagine how clogged up Tumblr would be. Blue blazers, rolled khakis, American Optical wayfarers. No wonder the ’60s were so style-obsessed; they had inspiration like that straight from the start.
The world’s changed a bit since then. Men stopped caring about clothes. Grey flannel suits were replaced by t-shirts and jeans. The average American man doesn’t think twice about dressing up anymore, and you can see that reflected in political style. Romney and Obama may be good-looking guys, but they don’t know the first thing about getting dressed.
That’s not fair. Even if Romney and Obama couldn’t dress themselves, they’d have the money to pay someone to do it for them. Dressing badly is just part of the political game these days. The sad truth isn’t that presidential candidates have inherently bad style: it’s that they actively cultivate it.
Anyone who pays any attention to a campaign knows that all male politicians wear the same thing: a blue or grey suit, black shoes, white shirt, American flag pin, red or blue tie (purple if you’re tacky). But it goes beyond that. You can look pretty good in a dark suit and white shirt if you get the fit right. But getting the fit right is absolutely forbidden in today’s political climate.
Look at Obama and Romney in any given debate. They’re both wearing jackets with wide shoulders and oversized armholes. Their trousers are all bunched up around their shoes. Their ties are too wide and patterned in a way that manages to avoid paying service to either tradition or trendiness. They look like your average post-graduate job applicant: not exceptionally bad, but really not very good.
When I was a young fashionista I was completely baffled by this phenomenon. Why didn’t politicians go all out? I would totally vote for a guy in a trim grey suit with tan shoes and a silk-knit tie. Now I realize that dressing well is a sign of a politician’s greatest evil: elitism. Political style is really a struggle with a politician’s inherent superiority complex. Of course he could dress well, but he has to suppress that fact and cover it up with an disingenuously relatable ill-fitting suit. If he doesn’t he’ll be called out for showing off. Dressing badly is the only way for him to connect with the average American.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating too much when I say that this attitude is destroying American society. It’s okay if you’re just getting the fit wrong: a trouser break here and a third button there are fine as long as you’re still wearing well-made, clothes. But egalitarianism crosses the line when it comes to the point of sacrificing quality and domestic manufacturing.
I see it as a presidential duty to buy American. You can’t call out outsourcers when you’re not using your considerable means to support American manufacturing. But because of the need to relate to middle America by means of bad style, presidential candidates end up wearing low-quality, foreign-manufactured clothing that sets a lazy precedent for the American people. Both candidates are guilty of this. Obama wears Chinese-made Levi’s on his days off. Romney prefers Southeast Asian Gap jeans, and also has a penchant for $18 Costco dress shirts. Both of their suits come from American manufacturers, but their commitment to made-in-USA ends there.
This would be a simple ethical failure if it were just a matter of lack of principle, but these guys are wearing foreign-made clothes for the purpose of relating to the American middle class. They’re effectively fueling the system that puts thousands of Americans out of work so that they can better relate to those out-of-work Americans.
Politicians lie and manipulate. Whatever. There’s no point in complaining about it anymore. The election is over, and the next four years are set. But since the president isn’t going to step up the plate, it’s going to have to be on you. Don’t buy into this racket. Don’t accept bad style. Don’t accept cheap, foreign-made jeans. Buy clothes that are made in America, and when you buy a suit, get it tailored. Start caring about your things and your appearance.
Today marks the start of four more years of empty promises, redundant policy, and political stagnation. But it can also mark the start of a new era of Good Style. It’s up to you, average American. Buy local. But American. Dress well.
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