What is it with the GOP contenders this year, and their horrid fashion sense? It’s the worst dressed crew in many years. Just as the quality of minds and policies have dramatically fallen since Calvin Coolidge, so too has their sense of how to look right.
This was abundantly apparent at Thursday’s debates, where, quite beside what was said was what was worn: apart from Carly Fiorina’s shiny, pink jacket, it was sea of dreary colors and ill-fitting suits.
Consider the standard. Coolidge was awesome. The hat, the high collar, the double breasted suit, the ease with which he wore all of that apparatus so nonchalantly—that was a man who knew how to dress like a benevolent and wise leader while not losing his personal distinction.
The second best Republican ever was Ronald Reagan. He always looked right. And consider he was one president beyond the leisure suit. Nearly alone, he brought back dignity and grace to men’s style just at the point where it seemed extinct.
Now look at the current mess, one by one. What a portrait in decline.
Jeb Bush. Jeb’s father and brother somehow managed to pull off the sack-suited prep-school look. There is something uniquely American about that style.
But on Jeb, this family tradition looks like a rumpled mess, like he grabbed his clothing out of the hamper before washing.
When he does wear a tie, the knot is often saggy. His pants are too long. Combined with his generally slumpy posture, he seems so convinced of his class-origin superiority that he doesn’t have to make any effort at all.
Donald Trump. Ostentation is his theme. His hard shoulder pads date from 1983 (Oxxford’s ripoff $10K custom suit never changes).
His gigantic cufflinks look like weapons.
While he can pay others to shop for him, he has to tie his own tie. And he seems not to understand how: it is three and a half inches too long. This illustrates incompetence in life skills—exactly what he doesn’t want to convey.
Scott Walker. Someone must have told him that a blue suit and a red tie are the only proper clothing for the ruling class.
Looking through Google images, they are all red but one, and it is blue. All American: get it?
The problem: he has no personality at all, no aspect of style he can call his own.
He is also prone to pulling the casual trick of taking off his coat and rolling up his sleeves—a dead giveaway of faux working class affectations. Further, as you can see here, his mommy never taught him how to tuck in a shirt.
Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. I’m doing these two together because they seem to look identically ridiculous. What is it about the choice of cowboy boots with cheap sloppy suits that correlates so closely with the longing for theocracy?
I get that it is a regional thing, but there is something about it that suggests that they are about to break out into an hour-long reading of the Gideon Bible.
Chris Christie. I’m just not going to say anything other than this: this man cannot be president.
Rand Paul. Early on in his campaign, Rand had a persistent problem. He refused to lose the button-down collar.
Those are fine for frat boys and country doctors but they don’t work for professionals running for office. Button down collars lack dignity.
More recently, he has been fixing that problem, but he has gone too far by defaulting constantly to the “I’m-in-power” D.C. uniform.
Let’s find an in-between, can we? Also, are those rubber-soled shoes? Never ever wear those in real life. A man should make noise when he walks.
Ted Cruz. Few things make a man look sloppier than coat sleeves that fall over the hand. Ted just can’t seem to shake that problem.
I guess he likes it that way but it makes him look like he is wearing a lawn-and-leaf bag. Someone needs to tell him that he needs ¼-½ inch cuff showing, and the entire ensemble needs to land at the wrist.
John Kasich. It’s hard to account for why John doesn’t know to button the center button of his jacket when he is standing. You unbutton it when sitting. Is that so hard?
Also, maybe he is to be commended for buying off-the-rack shirts, but they make those with double cuffs for cuff links too. Otherwise, he will continue to look like his poly-blend shirts come free when you buy two suits.
Carly Fiorina. This one is tricky for obvious reasons, but she is included here because she has a finely honed sense of how to combine feminine and professional—not an easy undertaking in today’s still-unstable gender climate.
She chooses dresses, suits, and jackets with lapels, but not burying the fabulous advantages of womanhood. Her color choices are decisive. She wears it all beautifully—and much better than the awkward and ambiguous wardrobe of a certain other woman candidate.
Rick Perry. He is runner up to the top two winners for the best dressed among these slackers. His suits fit. His ties are luxurious and well tied.
He gets special points for knowing how to wear a three-button suit: you button the top and middle but never the lower one.
He chooses interesting textures. His double-cuff shirts and gold cufflinks are for the win. But, wait, did I see somewhere that he sometimes wears boots with a color emblem of Texas emblazoned on them?
Let’s please lose those for the duration.
Marco Rubio. This man has style. His suits fit well. His tie is snug on his collar with four-in-hand knot, usually sporting a center dimple. He varies the color outside ruling-class red. His posture is outstanding.
He even dares step outside the script by wearing a nicely folded pocket square, in the tradition of Ronald Reagan.
But there is one problem. He tends to go for tri-color coordination: blue tie on blue shirt on blue suit. It’s too much! White is the right shirt for this put-together.
Dr. Ben Carson. This man looks amazing. Always. He dares to defy convention by wearing stripes, even stripes on stripes. It works. And his tie selection is fascinating. Everything fits right. Most important, no matter how dressed up he is—and he always is!—he never looks uncomfortable. He could be president if only to teach American men how to dress.