Friday, November 9, 2012

The Political Uniform

Chapter 92
The election is over. This isn't a political blog, so I'll spare you any of that which you doubtless are already inundated. I was correct in my prediction as to the outcome, however:

The man in the black suit will win.

This isn't a large stretch of prognostication. Let's take a quick tour of the last couple of political months.

We'll start with the Republican nominating process. Observe: from left to right, black suit, black suit, black suit, black suit, black suit, and black suit. Not shown is Herman Cain, in a black suit, and Michelle Bachmann, who was not a man, and thus beyond the scope of this blog. So the Republicans chose the man in the black suit.

Let's skip to the conventions now. First, the Democrat convention. Obama at the podium, basking in the adulation with his court jester: black suit, and black suit.

Bill Clinton? Black suit.

Even Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the convention chair, provided comic relief with his "maybe you didn't understand the question" routine in a black suit.

Perhaps there is a trend here. Let's compare this with the Republican convention: RNC Chair Reice Preibus -- black suit.

Reice and John Boehner? Black suit and black suit.

Ebullient Chris Christie -- in a slimming black suit.

Clint Eastwood, the Republican's answer to Villaraigosa, also a black suit.

Even Wisconsonian Sol Grosskopf, with a chessehead hat and purple polka-dotted bow tie, somehow can't shun the black suit.

Surely at the debates this dreary costume must be averted?

No. Presidential debates: black suit, black suit.

Vice presidential debate: black suit, black suit.

What do we see here? A depressing uniformity and a stultifying lack of imagination. Arenas full of ill-fitting black suits. A House and Senate full of black suits. A Capitol full of black suits. Men at the highest levels of American government, no matter their party, have given up on their sartorial free expression. And what happens on the surface is an indication of what is going on underneath.

Let's draw a quick comparison between the modern day and Presidents past -- and just to keep it fair, we'll look at past political conventions here as well. The dapper haberdasher, Harry S. Truman, makes his acceptance speech at the Democrat National Convention in style, with a double-breasted linen suit.

Notice the light, breezy, and confident air a bright suit gives. It's hard to tell in monochrome, but this is likely a very light eggshell or cream linen.

Let's jump forward to Eisenhower in 1952, greeting the press outside the Republican National Convention, at a constituent's house. Hardly a dark suit to be seen. Ike is most likely in a salt-and-pepper suit, whilst his glad-handed throng are in a variety of tans, creams, and rusts. Notice the straw fedoras, and the spectator shoes on the gents at the far left.

Here is a jubilant Richard Nixon also at the RNC in 1952, looking far from dour in a light, possibly straw-colored, suit.

Moving ahead to 1972, Ronald Reagan hands off the ceremonial chair's gavel to Gerald Ford at the RNC. Gerry's in a dark suit, perhaps a sign of things to come, while the Gipper is in what appears to be light grey.

Up until the 1976 Republican Convention, light suits were still seen, although less rarely than in previous years. RNC Chair Bob Dole is wearing a poly suit in what I think might be a then-fashionable light brick color. But beyond the bicentennial, dark tones predominated, and for the last several decades, color has disappeared completely from the palette of the politician.

When everyone wears black, it's more difficult to tell who the good guys are. If there are any, that is.

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  1. congregation of undertakers...

  2. Not wishing to be TOO pedantic, but surely most of these suits will be navy or charcoal (okay, so nearly black).

    But yes, very sombre, dreary and depressing. Like politics.

  3. Not pedantic at all! You are correct: there are a couple of very dark navies and very dark charcoals there too, but (like midnight blue dinner suits) they all resolve into shades of black on the small screen. Warm black and cool black, to be sure; but the subtleties of shade are minor in light of their overall uniformity. They are all so nearly black that if you saw any of these suits without a true black to compare it to, you'd never notice the difference.

  4. When shopping for Men's suits, the color is a very important factor to consider. You need to choose which one will help you look good.

  5. I want to buy a mens suit for my wedding and i was wondering to order it online. Any Suggestion!

  6. Even though the above two posts are spammish, (for similar sites, oddly!) there is some truth therein.

    David's is quite correct: color IS a very important factor. I would suggest that to look your best, choose colors and fabrics to match the weather and the season.

    Alex John, I certainly wouldn't suggest your link for a wedding! I would recommend a true bespoke morning suit for a wedding, and spend at least as much as your fiancèe's dress. If you can't afford that, the best economical source is to find the closest size you can manage on eBay UK or eBay Germany, have it shipped to you, and altered to fine-tune the fit. It will look elegant, and fitted with some provenance: not like a shiny new suit, or worse, a rental.

  7. Just a nit picky thing. Congress contains both the House and the Senate. So you should have just said Congress instead of "A Congress and House full of black suits."

  8. Whoops! Mia culpa: that's an editing error that got by me. I just wrote 'congress' initially, and went back to change it. (At least, that was the intent...I must have been distracted midway through.) Thanks for pointing that out -- I'll jump in and revise it now.