The power suit is not a new concept, but the theory behind how you choose one is. With every piece of clothing you put on, you are sending a message, whether it is conscious or not. Even the smallest choice, like deciding to wear an athletic-fit shirt versus a standard-fit one, can say, “I’ve been working out and I want to proudly display my results.”
Those same thoughts and choices were made when it came to the clothing worn by the 2012 presidential candidates. Although their suits may seem simple and by the book, I will venture to delve deeper and interpret the pieces worn by both men.
In men’s fashion, there is a limited amount of options when it comes to suits, but we have more choices today than we ever have before. The first and most important aspect in wearing a suit is fit, with choices including traditional, standard, executive and Italian-tailored. The traditional and standard fits are the most popular because they are versatile, can be worn for any occasion and are flattering on any body type.
Governor Mitt Romney wore a black traditional-fit suit to the first presidential debate Oct. 3. The traditional-fit suit is usually favored by the more conservative, “traditional” man. Usually, this all-American guy is family-oriented and holds strong to the core values of what manhood is defined as. Although this suit is popular and versatile, it is a security blanket to protect from actually trying to make any fashionable statement.
In contrast, President Barack Obama wore a navy executive-fit suit to the first presidential debate. This style suit is the epitome of a businessman at his finest. Cut broadly in the shoulders and slim in the waist, it creates a tall, powerful silhouette.
The Italian-tailored suit is rarely used in a professional setting, and I wouldn’t suggest it because of its sharp, harsh lines. It features every physically marketable area of the male physique. Cut slim in the shoulders, back and waist, and accompanied by a straight-leg trouser, this type of suit would be an amazing choice for the inaugural ball.
Now that the reasoning behind the candidates’ suit choices have been observed, let’s dive deeper into separates. Both candidates wore white T-shirts, although the length of President Obama’s shirt seemed to not provide for cuff links. This lack of a cuffed shirt sends a message that he desired a more casual look and feeling from his attire that evening. Governor Romney, in comparison, wore a cuffed white shirt will silver cuff links. The choice to wear cuff links presents the image of seriousness and formality. These slight differences in decision may seem irrelevant, but when viewing the perspective of the candidates in the debate, a viewer could find a correlation in the clothing and the candidates’ presentations.
Accessories are the accents that bring individuality to any suit, like throwing paint onto a blank canvas. Ties are the main accessory that show who you are in an outfit, whether it be a bold statement or a more subdued one. Governor Romney wore a candy-red silk tie with a diagonal pinstripe tied in a slim Windsor knot. Although his color choice was associated with his allegiance to his political party, other details within the tie can be evaluated. The choice to wear a pinstripe tie in a diagonal design sends a message of being relatable and approachable. This was a good choice from a publicity standpoint since he is running for a public office.
A cerulean tie with horizontal ruching tied in a large double Windsor knot was President Obama’s choice. The double Windsor is the tie style endorsed ironically by the one and only Donald Trump. This style is advertised as a key tool used by power players in corporate America and the executive world alike. In adherence to that theory, for someone whose position is being challenged, a strong yet relaxed stance seemed to be the way to go.
Lastly, pins aren’t marketed to men frequently, so both candidates’ decision to wear one was very interesting. President Obama wore a small pin proportionate to the size of his lapel, while Governor Romney opted for a larger, more lapel-dominate pin. These decisions in pin wear furthermore encouraged the attitudes and messages being exhibited by their attire.
Regardless of the suit’s fit, type of cuff, tie color and pin size, the understanding is the same: Everything you wear sends a message about who you are and what you stand for just as much as what you say.