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Deconstructing Paul Ryan's Wardrobe

Posted: 08/15/2012 10:59 pm

Ever since Mitt Romney introduced Paul Ryan as his VP candidate, the media has gone to work introducing Americans to the Wisconsin congressman. In addition to his congressional record and public service, we've also gotten to know Ryan's family, hobbies, background and, yes, fashion sense. "We would be lying if we said clothes were meaningless. Our appearance conveys a message; it helps put people in context," said Alexandra Le Tellier in the Los Angeles Times.

Four years ago Sarah Palin's fashion played a prominent role in the campaign; Republicans can rest assured that Ryan will play it closer to the vest (pardon, Rick Santorum). So what can pundits pull out from Ryan's first few days as a fashion icon? Here are some of the best interpretations:

His suits are too big:

"Instead of boasting about his insane workout, perhaps Mr. Ryan should get a skilled tailor, or challenge campaign aides to pay closer attention to tangible details rather than abstractions like whether or not the candidates appeal to nonrich, nonwhite voters," said Cathy Horyn in The New York Times. "One thing is sure: the tightfitting ideology of politicians nowadays is reflected in their narrow clothing choices, Democrats and Republicans alike. Political correctness is also to blame for a lack of imagination and a failure to be fully adult, which, perhaps paradoxically, is to be willful and indifferent to trends or criticism."

He's gone casual:

"There is something now vaguely offensive about Ryan refusing to wear those shiny, striped ties he wore to his day job on the Hill," said Kurt Soller at Esquire. "So you have to wonder why, exactly, he ditched the knot. Obviously, the answer is the Romney campaign, which has pushed not just an overly-casual campaign, but one that's overtly casual. Annoyingly so, to the point of assuming that somehow caring too much, and expressing that with nice clothes, will prevent these men from winning the offices they aggressively want to inhabit."

He's a bit geeky:

"Ryan wore a dark suit -- of the extra-roomy variety -- and an open-collared white shirt. A rather large flag pin decorated his jacket lapel. He was dressed in the uniform that President Barack Obama popularized during the 2008 campaign. Obama wore the tieless black suit whenever he was looking to convey authority and gravitas in an informal situation. It was his go-to look for late night talk shows, for instance. Obama accessorized this look with cool, with nonchalance. Ryan prefers the aw-shucks understatement of an earnestly furrowed brow," said Robin Givhan at The Daily Beast.

It's all part of the plan:

"In Ryan's case, styling himself as a baggy-suited newcomer aligned with the party's conservatives may be a wise strategy for the campaign. And it may steer Ryan away from the disaster that accompanied Sarah Palin's 2008 wardrobe scandal, when financial disclosure records revealed that the Republican National Committee spent more than $150,000 on her clothing -- which occurred after Lisa A. Kline was hired to handle Palin's campaign makeover," said Katherine Boyle in The Washington Post.
 

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