Political Style: Does It Really Matter How Our Leaders Dress?

A few Sundays ago I was sitting reading The Sunday Times (a challenge in itself; I am small and your average broadsheet is rather large. You try reading a newspaper that is basically your arm span sometime!) and there was a piece criticizing what French Cabinet Minister Cecile Duflot has been turning up to Cabinet meetings wearing; outfits that included a skirt that came a bit above her knee (but was in no way so short it could be considered unbecoming) and a pair of jeans in a rather wonderful trench coat ensemble. She has also recently been wolf whistled in the French parliament for wearing a stylish blue and white dress. It may just be that I don’t find issue with her outfits because I am rather sartorially inclined, but I find myself wishing women in the British political arena took more care in their appearance.

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Louise Mench, British Member of Parliament for Corby in GQ Magazine

From female Members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers to most House of Commons staffers that swarm the cafeterias at Parliamentary lunchtime most of the women assembled, it can be said, don’t really take much care in what they are wearing. There are a few notable exceptions; Conservative MP Louise Mench has been ridiculed by the British  media for appearing in sharp, tailored looks in GQ, and newspapers have kept up a satirical running commentary on Home Secretary Theresa May’s fun shoe collection which includes a pretty spectacular pair of leopard print kitten heels. 

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French Minister for Territorial Equality and Housing Cecile Duflot

The enduring argument is that it does not really matter how politicians dress as it is their job to run our country, not our fashion weeks, but isn’t it their duty as public figures to look smart and presentable? In the past it has been argued that being interested in fashion and personal style shows that you’re not intelligent, but that simply does not hold anymore. Caring about your personal style means caring about how you present yourself to the world, so should we not care how our representatives are presenting us, and not just themselves by how they have dressed?

It is not just the woman; I can’t think of many other countries in the world where male politicians can get away with standing up in Parliament or on television in a disheveled and ill fitting suit; thank God that of all the current front bench David Cameron is our Prime Minister and not Ken Clarke. Who here would prefer a man standing up in a ill fitting and creased suit and representing Britain at the United Nations or at the G8, or someone in a crisp, well tailored suit? 

This brings me to my final question for you all, do you think it matters how our political leaders dress? Obviously it is their opinions and policies that really count, but as we seem to hold politicians to higher moral standards (think about our reactions when politicians are found to have had affairs or to have briefly sampled drugs in their early youth) should we also hold them to higher sartorial standards too?

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