One can easily apply the cliché “a picture tells a thousands words” to fashion, as one single outfit we choose to wear tells the world exactly who we are, where we come from, and what we believe in. Fashion as communication is a tale as old as time, but when set in the context of a political campaign – fashion truly influences our every day lives as it contributes to our decision in choosing our political leaders, directly shaping our future.
This American election has been (nightmarish) historic and shocking on so many levels and I have no intention on going into the nitty gritty of it all at this point – VOTE!!!!- but what particularly fascinated me in this election was the hyper-branding and extreme importance of image. Image has always been important in an election, but we have seen both Trump and Clinton becoming caricatures of themselves and now even a mundane red baseball cap and a classic pantsuit is immediately associated their respected selves.
First lets look at Donald Trump. What is his image telling us? Well, he wears perfectly tailored suits – usually Brioni- thus epitomising the sophisticated, refined, successful businessman… an image he has spent decades nurturing. The suit grants him the status of power and that paired with a red, shiny silk tie (red tie, white shirt, blue suit) you see a man representing patriotism, strength, and assertiveness. His style is on point (or fleek if you are under 25), but the real “it” item capturing his whole campaign is the infamous red trucker hat reading the words “make America great again”. These hats have and their accompanying slogan have become almost a cult item to have: representing the beliefs and desire of millions of Americans but for others is considered a parody #Merica!!! The hat captures the spirit of the everyday American – humble, modest yet determined and outspoken. Out of all the accessories presented on the runways each year – THIS hat will have made history and will still be relevant in the far out future… in the very least for a halloween costume.
When considering image, Hillary Clinton plays in a completely different league because she is a woman. Fair or not that is the way it is and her hair, makeup, and outfit for every appearance must be no less than perfect and be appropriate. An added pressure which is due to her gender. Clinton must constantly balance having too much and having too little: never too much makeup, never too little…. ect. Her outfit choices should always make a statement, but can never outshine her, and distract her audience (which is the world). She has made pantsuits legendary and is known for supporting American talent. For this campaign it has been said she has consulted with American Vogue Editor and chief Anna Wintour for putting together her campaign wardrobe and although this is my speculation – I think Anna is the reason why we have seen so many bright coloured, bold pantsuits emphasising vigour, competence, but also an energetic personality. Her legendary pantsuit has given a masculine edge to her look, which is needed in a presidential race – a frothy Oscar de la Renta number isn’t going to cut it for the “leader of the free world”. While pantsuits represent her style, her slogan is #imwithher and thanks to Trump, was gifted an evan better slogan which has also become “cult”. The reference of being a “nasty woman” has been added to her advantage and nasty woman t-shirts are all the rage and in our modern vernacular “Nasty” is the new awesome.
So who should win based on strictly fashion alone? Clinton has been accused of spending $12,000 on an Armani jacket at a convention discussing inequality in America- not helping her case of being more likeable. She didn’t have an “it” accessory on par with the Red Hat. Clinton also has been said to use campaign money to buy clothes as that is part of the campaign, while Trump pays for his Brioni suits with his own money. That being said, it seems as Trump is a real man of the people and fosters a professional responsible image – a proper business man with a core of your typical all American wearing a care-free baseball cap.
Fashion alone however can deceive and to make your decision tomorrow solely based on slogans, image, and “sick” hats is a grave mistake. As powerful as this creative medium is and all it represents, fashion does not define leadership, courage, integrity, and responsibility.