OPINION: politicians’ attire can influence audience perception


Andre Gary-Mack, Opinion Editor (He/him)

Most people don’t often think of fashion and politics as going hand in hand. Well in fact, they do. A lot of what happens in this multibillion-dollar industry works hand in hand with policies, bills and laws passed by our very own government, from labor laws to trade agreements and everything in between. The same can be said for politicians and their approach to style and dress and how that reads to their audience. 

A lot of what we wear sends a message to people about a variety of things: how we carry ourselves, the type of activities we enjoy, the sports teams we represent and subjects we tackle at face value. Let’s look at our politicians as a prime example. A lot of time on the campaign trail you see standard colors like navy red or a traditional blue, with a crisp white shirt and a black shoe. Easy and safe, but authoritative and commanding. Conservative without leaning in one direction or another for a political party. 

Joe Biden does this well with his custom tailored Italian Canali suits. He has a more fitted and European cut, while being mindful to his age and position and wanting to appeal to multiple audiences. Trump, who in case some did not know, had a line of suits sold in Macey’s across the country, wears suits outdated in fit and style, appearing almost as though he is not really to be taken seriously.

What does this have to do with our local leaders, though? When thinking about our senate and mayoral representation, it’s not hard to take a once-over look at what they’re wearing to see what their outfit says about them; for example, we can look at South Dakota State Senator for District 26 Troy Heinert. A minority leader of the South Dakota Senate and a descendant of the Rosebud Tribe, his attire typically consists of a charcoal grey or navy suit, which is appropriate when speaking to a conservative group of people and appealing to the masses despite his democratic affiliation. However, instead of a more traditional tie, he wears a bolo tie or variation of one to pay homage to his Native American roots.

In a more staunch conservative appearance, we have Brookings Mayor Keith Corbett. In both look and stature, he has a rather militaristic style of dress. Though he tends to wear a suit on the lighter side of the color spectrum (tans, sage green, lighter grey colors), they are almost always paired with a printed tie to give the appearance that he does not take himself too seriously, and that he wants to appeal to his constituents. 

The psychology behind dress says a lot about a person. With our politicians, it speaks volumes to who they are and what they represent. Trump wearing an oversized suit that barely fits him gives him a more school yard bully look, which is not so far-fetched from his political approach. Joe, a clean cut man, dresses for the job he wants: the president. He wears the right attire for the job. He wants to be taken seriously, but also gives a vibe that he can sit on the couch in the oval office and enjoy a good scotch on the rocks and look over a bill or two with his sleeves rolled up. Make sure when you are choosing your candidate, take notice of what their appearance is saying to you. It says more than you know.