Today’s post is the beginning of a yet-to-be-named series, in which I take popular figures and break down their style.
And who better to start with, than one of the most polarizing figures in the media in this, the beginning of 2016.
I’m talking about none other than Donald J Trump.
From real estate mogul, to media tycoon, to presidential candidate to, who know’s what’s next – Trump has one of the most recognizable aesthetics and appearances of any candidate in either party.
And I’m going to show you how his image is part of what makes him such a polarizing figure. Because, that’s exactly what Trump is. Whether you believe he’s a super villain or a super hero, the man – and his appearance – are larger than life. And that’s exactly where he wants to be.
So let’s start with the basics and work our way up.
While he dabbled in both lighter shades and varying patterns in his younger years, his mainstay has been solid colors for more than a decade. Focusing on darker shades like navy, charcoal, and black – the purpose of his suits is to act merely as a frame for the rest of his over-the-top appearance.
The fit is a throwback to the larger, boxy cuts of the last couple of decades and is an excellent way to indicate his age and his own aesthetic high point. Trump was born on the front end of the Baby Boom (1946) and represents their appearance perfectly. He hails from a time and generation in which a suit wasn’t a symbol of refinement and class, but of corporate greed and capitalistic oppression. Baby Boomers have always aspired to be so successful that they didn’t need suits, not that they could wear nice ones.
Whether he believes in this symbolism or not he wears a boxy suit as a tribal indicator to the other men and women of his generation. It says, “I’m one of you. I hate wearing this thing but, since I have to, it might as well be as big and comfortable as possible.”
Any feminist gender theorist and one of her many cats will gladly lecture for hours on end of how a tie is a phallic symbol of male oppression.
And, while most white-collar men don’t see their neckwear as a sartorial expression (or compensation) of their manhood, I suspect Trump knows exactly the image this projects.
His ties always fall well below the waistband of his pants. If we were to see this once or twice, it could be chalked up to an accident, but his tie placement is as precise as if he had a valet tying it for him (for all I know, he might).
Visually this lengthens the legs and shortens the torso, but it also rrrmmm “extends” the visual connection between his face and his manhood.
In layman’s terms, it looks like he’s swinging a big one around.
But it’s not just the length of his ties that make them interesting. It’s also the pattern and color. While Trump will occasionally sport a striped tie, the vast majority are solids.
And not just solids, but the most intense, color-saturated solids available. The extremely high contrast between a dark suit, white shirt, and electric tie is eye-catching and very purposely communicates that Trump is a man who is comfortable being at the center of attention.
But his clothing isn’t the only variable Trump uses to assert his identity.
Those on the far left would claim his tan is an excellent way of asserting his white superiority. I don’t know about that (nor do I really care).
Could it be a way to identify with the female voters?
Does it work as a contrast of the every-man appearance in a too big suit and help him establish himself as “not quite” one of us?
Is he secretly signaling his understanding of the power of vitamin D?
I don’t know. What I do know is that a man who spends that much time in front of a camera, doesn’t rock the orange glow simply because he likes it. It’s because he knows it gets your attention and he plans on using that attention to accomplish his goals.
Before we move on to the final, most obvious aspect of the Trump’s appearance, I want to take a minute to talk about his merchandising.
Set his Macy’s collaboration and his own clothing line aside. What is really a key to Trump is the “Make America Great Again Hat”
Simple. Patriotic and uniquely… populist.
You see, this thing is a trucker hat, and that’s about as blue-collar, middle America as an article of clothing gets.
Wikipedia tells us that another name for the humble trucker is the “gimme [as in ‘give me’] cap” or a “feed cap” because this style of hat originated as a promotional give-away from feed or farming supply companies to farmers, truck drivers, or other rural workers.
By having this little cap as his mainstay campaign piece, he’s hyper targeting his primary demographic – working class Americans who have felt so disenchanted with the Republican nominees of the past elections, that they chose to vote with their silence and never enter a booth.
Rather than chasing the minority vote, or going after young, single women, Trump is attempting to incentivize the average, white American who lives in a “flyover” state and is disillusioned with DC, Hollywood, and Wall Street – a move that has been working rather nicely for him.
Which brings us to our final piece. The one that’s been accused of actually being a piece –
Whether it’s a holdover from better days in the 70’s and 80’s, a poor attempt at hiding a (or three) receding hairlines, or something that’s bad just for the sake of being bad, Trump’s hair is another perfect example of an intentional appearance.
There has been more ink spilt over that particular haircut than almost anything else in the 2016 race.
Doing a quick google search leads to the obvious articles from obvious sites, but even more reputable publications have had a piece or two on the power of Trump’s hair.
And that’s where the true strength of his overall appearance is. Trump understands that a president needs to be a cartoon character. He knows that both super heroes and super villains have super appearances and no one is interested in talking about, hating on, or voting for a man who looks like he belongs at the local bar
(just ask Jeb).
Trump understands the power of polarization and the authority of appearance. By combining the two, he gets his opposition to immediately hate him – and hate is significantly closer to love than most people imagine.
The worst thing a man in Trump’s position can do is be or appear average. The more people hate him, the stronger his supporters feel about him. The more he gets to one extreme, the more the other grows as well.
So set politics aside. He maybe America’s Hitler or its savior. But the man knows how to use his appearance to his advantage.
Do I like the way he looks? Absolutely not.
And that’s the point. Trump understands that a negative reaction is often better than a positive one, and both far outweigh no reaction at all.
Because all that time spent talking about his hair, his suits, his tan, and his ties, is time that would otherwise be used on other candidates.
Don’t know what I mean by Rugged, Refined, and Rakish? Well go check these out.
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