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Carson wins best dressed while Trump brings up the rear in the clash of haberdashery at GOP debateAugust 09, 2015
By: Michael Abrams
Clothes are at the epicenter of self-revelation. A tie is more than a capitalist frivolity, but the very texture of psychodrama.
Choice of a candidate’s clothing in American politics is refereed by public relations advisers when the stakes are high.
Yet, oddly enough, even a newcomer with fashion sense can win this beauty contest.
The GOP sartorial debate first round was won by a knockout punch, as candidate Ben Carson showed the rest of the field exactly what a well-dressed political prospect ought to be wearing.
The rest of the candidates ranged from “conservative warm” to the tent-like suit worn by billionaire Donald Trump, who also came accoutered in a flashy-red tie similar on television to the cheap polyester Chinese ties flooding the market. Does the man actually merchandise a line of ties?
Here are our ratings: 1. Carson; 2. Kasich; 3. Bush; 4. Rubio; 5. Cruz; 6. Walker; 7. Christie; 8. Paul; 9. Huckabee; and 10. Trump.
The dead end in the fashion show was inhabited by candidates Paul, Huckabee and Trump.
Connoisseurs of ties know the range, from Duchamp and Burberry in London to Italy to private American manufacturers like JZ Richards. Ties range from stunning expensive London woven silk to conservative Ermenegildo Zegna Italian pieces to less prohibitive pieces sold by the clothiers even in Tallahassee, Florida, from where this column is written.
Nice ties can be had wherever buyers find them within their budgets. For wealthy GOP candidates, this process ought to be a slam dunk.
Yet, for Christie, who appeared on television to wear the proper plain gray suit, inexplicably chose a semi-formal aqua-blue 1950s patterned tie that not only clashed with what appeared to be the red and blue flag -striped New Jersey pin stuck to his lapel, but fought the chartreuse rubber bracelet which adorned his right wrist. It’s the sort of tie that will sell furniture and swimming pools.
Paul adopted an innocuous red tie to go with a flag lapel pin, but in a plain dogfood conservative black suit and grayish shirt, offered absolutely no character to his appearance. It may be that such sartorial inelegance was purposeful to tone down his facial impression of Danny Kaye, clownish and perhaps insouciant if unleashed. Nevertheless, it left little to talk about.
Walker’s ineffectual light blue tie was knotted too tightly, like a clip-on or noose. One offers him some extra credit on the collar, which had a sexy downward curve for a buttonless piece. A lifeless tie testifies little for its owner, especially comported with a white shirt. All too often buttonless collars, which everyone wore, spread out too wide and flat.
Cruz oddly wore no patriotic lapel pin, joining Huckabee and Kasich. A patriotic lapel pin is certainly something that could have added to his color scheme. The diagonally striped tie, black and silver, was a nice complement to the dark suit, but the overall color scheme was spaghetti with no sauce. Overall, unfortunately, he displayed the countenance, in some respects, of an employee of a mortuary that one sees at a funeral directing the cars.
The young Robespierre, Rubio, wore a red patterned tie that seemed to have silk embroidered lines. The knot was classic, neither tight nor loose, reflecting what could be mistaken as a generous nature. In his blue toned shirt and with flag pin, what we had was a nice combination. This was an excellently tailored suit across the shoulders.
Jeb Bush’s flag pin was a stylish shtick, active, bustling as it curved downward. Bush, a hale fellow to all, garbed himself in a diagonal striped berry-colored tie that gave just the right impression of a risk-taker, Bush is a combination of the formal and informal, and often appears without a tie. It’s the kind heterogeneous ambulation that may appeal to middle-of-the-road voters.
We will offer a bold genuflection to the fashionable blue tie worn by Kasich, one of the dark horse candidates. He not only knows how to wear a tie, but his collar inscribes a perfect curve as it descends to the body of the shirt. The tie, a skyish blue, indented with with lighter ivory marks, set an air of professionalism that floated well. He appeared relaxed. He was born to wear that tie.
Now we come to humble Ben Carson, the noted neurosurgeon, whose blue pin-striped suit stands out from the crowd of conservative black and grays. With deep red tie with a design that looks like small white flowers on a darker pattern, the combination makes a handsome statement. The tie is knotted gracefully. Everything is just right with this combination, and so he wins the contest. He’s willing to take a mild risk, but does not present anything radical. No one in the pack reached his sartorial level.
Taken one with the other, the Republicans seemed to be a dour group, but within certain parameters, fit nicely into what might be considered the deacon league.
There is some hope along the way, however. If there is any redeeming quality to GOP fashion, the GOP radio idol Rush Limbaugh sells or used to sell a line of outrageous adventurous ties that were closer to what Salvador Dali might wear. Anyone who sells those ties can’t be all bad, and this is written by an unreconstructed liberal Democrat.
It is probably only the women, the political wives, who have the freedom to present themselves in ways that appeal to the glamour magazines, if there are any of those left. Nixon kept his poor wife Pat in a plain Republican coat made of cloth, as we recall, but times have changed. Jackie Kennedy set a goal for first ladies.
Whether handsome dressing is a key to an election, is something we have wondered about. In the last election, no one wore ties more handsomely than candidate Romney, yet he lost the election. Clothes may make the man, but they don’t always assure that he will win, in contest with another man. This year may bring a different set of variables if Hillary Clinton takes the nomination for the Demcrats.