The Influence of Fashion in Modern Politics


Courtesy of Harper's Bazaar

Kamala Harris struts in her Converse.

Devin Toolen, Staff Writer

We’ve all heard the old expression “don’t judge a book by its cover.” This statement has some truth to it. It’s important not to judge something or someone upon first glance. However, we all do it anyway. One way we might initially judge someone is by what they wear. The clothes we wear are what people first notice when they see us.

Fashion has the power to deliver messages without any words. People wear certain clothes to stand up for something or to make a statement. Although we may not realize it, fashion has influence in the political sphere as well. Let’s look at some examples of the power of fashion within politics.

Senator Kamala Harris is known for making statements with her footwear when she is in public. She can be seen wearing Converse sneakers with pantsuits at political conventions. The juxtaposition of casual sneakers and business attire has come into style over the last few years, and Harris is a great example of that. The shoes also reflect her confidence. Normally, female politicians wear heels or other professional shoes. By wearing Converse, Harris demonstrates how she can still do her job successfully while being comfortable. Also, by wearing an affordable American brand, Harris shows how aside from politics, she is just a regular person.

Another fashion statement that can be seen in the realm of politics is the Hillary Clinton pantsuit. When Clinton was running for president in 2016, the pantsuit became her uniform and she often wore it to different political events. There is something empowering about pantsuits for women, as a suit is normally a masculine garment.

However, the pantsuit breaks the norm that professional women should wear dresses or skirts. In a way, the pantsuit also displays confidence and determination in women because it is exactly what men wear. Women’s bodies have always been overly sexualized by society, and by dressing in a garment primarily worn by men, Clinton takes a stand against judgement based on dress. The pantsuit worn by Clinton and other female politicians is a great example of making a subtle yet important fashion statement.

Both in the 2016 election and the current 2020 election, citizens have seen President Trump’s campaign team sell baseball hats with his slogans “Make America Great Again” and “Keep America Great.”

While hats are just accessories, they too make statements. Baseball hats are a symbol of the game known as “America’s pastime.” When the President wears his hat with his professional suit, it shows that he can relate to the American public even though he is a prominent political figure. By wearing his own merchandise, it shows American people that they too can wear what he wears.

While you might not realize it, fashion holds power in society, and we all take note of what others wear. If fashion can be so influential, why not use it in an advantageous way?

Political figures like Kamala Harris, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump indirectly develop their public persona through their fashion choices. Then, members of the American public are able to make preliminary judgments about them. Converse at a political convention? That’s an interesting choice.

A M.A.G.A. hat worn with a suit? This is an intriguing mix between casual and professional. Fashion provides people with endless opportunities for self-expression, and with regards to politics, it gives public figures the ability to project a powerful image of themselves. It’s up to us to look further past the cover to see the substance of what’s inside.