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They’ve got their streamlined suits on, their carefully-selected bold-hued ties and their power pearl necklaces all in place – and each and every fashion choice has a big strategy behind it. When it comes to politics, every detail matters – every word, every move and yes, every style statement. Online retailer of pearl jewelry Laguna Pearl invited Behavioral Psychologist, Dr Carolyn Mair, founder of psychology.fashion, and author of The Psychology of Fashion, to share her valuable insight on the fashion choices of the 2020 presidential candidates.
Whether they choose their garments based on who they want to be seen as or on who they truly are, one thing is for certain: every little detail, from the color of a suit, a cap or a shirt to the type (and the amount) of accessories they opt for conveys something specific about their political game. The public’s perception is strongly influenced by the candidates’ style choices, such as wearing or not wearing a tie – or simply adding a lapel pin in the equation.
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When it comes to President Trump, Dr. Mair says his signature red tie is definitely not random – in fact, it’s a pivotal element in a game of power, designed to convey authority. The President’s style mojo seems to oscillate around the idea of “I’m the boss, and you can put your trust in me” – and he does it successfully. Mair notes that Trump’s decision to adhere to classic business attire is a clear representation of a traditional figure, one that doesn’t mingle with progressive ideas and prefers conformity.
On the other hand, blue is the go-to choice of candidates who are (or want to seem) more relatable , such as Joe Biden, whose image is fully dedicated to the idea of “confidence and trust”. Presenting himself as the rather ordinary candidate, or one of “the common people”, Biden’s style choices, while still put-together, perfectly reflect his jovial nature and accessibility. His style is definitely not static – in fact, it’s ever-changing, yet unmistakably his. Biden is a fan of fashionable clothing that is always fitted, yet casual in silhouette. Mair observes that many of his outfits are not only approachable, but also friendly, cool and classic – a successful style recipe.
In the analysis Dr. Mair conducted for Laguna Pearl, Bernie Sanders stands out as the political figure that resembles most the image of “your favorite uncle”. With his arsenal of loose hair and oversized shirts, his choices are rather nonchoices and his style overall looks like an afterthought – but that might simply be his strategy aimed at winning hearts and votes. Authenticity seems to be one of the main goals when it comes to Bernie Sanders – which is why he often comes across as someone not preoccupied with fashion – and that may appeal to voters, who can easily resonate with a political figure who isn’t trying to use fashion as a political tool.
When it comes to the women in the run for presidency, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren count on accessories to make a statement. The two candidates often opt for a classic pearl necklace as their statement piece, but take slightly different approaches when it comes to their garments. Harris oscillates between smart-casual and modern pieces, always impeccably tailored, while Warren embraces bold color to the fullest and opts for saturated sweaters and blazers – unless she’s attending a less formal event, where lighter hues are usually her go-to. Harris gravitates towards ensembles that mix understated clothing pieces with statement jewelry – a style game that often conveys “listening instead of commanding.” While Harris counts on a mish-mash of high and low, Warren “is less interested in creating a stylish image through her clothing” and aims to always communicate trustworthiness and safety.
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A look at past candidates reveals that there has been a slight departure from the 24/7 formal business attire – and we’ve seen several political figures exhibiting a much more casual look. One example is presidential candidate Mike Huckabee during the 2016 election campaign, who showed a more relaxed version of himself at The Iowa State Fair. Next, it was Kamala Harris, who also opted for a very casual look as she took the stage at the same event, where she showed a less-tailored form of herself to indicate relatability and openness.