By Renjie Wong
As far as politics goes, the October presidential debates were hilariously non sequitur – Foreign policy? Yes, but let’s talk about my plans for the economy first. Yet Intermission felt the fashion frenzy of the thrilling exchange of style ripostes between President Obama and Gov. Romney. We haven’t seen this level of sartorial substance in Presidential candidates since JFK. As we eagerly await the election outcome, we take a look at the two candidates’ fashion mettle – and their wives’, too.
While both politicians were excellently turned out, President Obama’s suits, unfortunately, weren’t quite as well fitted as they should have been. His shoulder line extended a little too far, which, when combined with the soft, unpadded tailoring of his suit, made him look somewhat shriveled and shabby – perhaps not the best look for our head of state. Romney, in opting for a more modern fit, came across a lot sprightlier than the POTUS, whose pants were also distractingly loose à la grandpa. Guess the economy isn’t the only one in need of a little Taylorism.
The key (or is it don key?) to being sartorially bulletproof is avoiding the characteristically baggy American sack suiting in favor of the sculpted Italian tailoring Obama has become known for. Even if the people praised Jackie O. for commissioning American-made replicas, Obama’s handcrafted suits from Roman tailoring house Brioni would make even McCarthy proud.
While he wasn’t by any means sloppy-looking, Obama could definitely have stepped up his game; the point hence goes to the ever-fashionable Romney.
Accoutrements-wise, Republicans are traditionally the more stylish of the lot – the RNC is, after all, our preferred source of formal wear inspiration – and Gov. Romney, who appears not to have met a repp tie he did not like, clearly has a far more exciting tie rack than President Obama.
We would, however, have to hand the tie knot award to Obama. Wisely avoiding the chunky, stiff Windsor knot favored by Romney and picking perfectly crafted, narrower four-in-hand knots that frame his lean face and stature far better, Obama proved that he has the swag locked down and his omnipresent tie dimple confirms it all. Besides, the four-in-hand is much easier to craft, and we’d like to think that our commander in chief spends more of his morning routine assessing the state of our economy than navigating the intricacies of necktie niggles.
And no, Gov. Romney, no presidential candidate – Republican or otherwise – ever needs a lapel pin of such elephantine proportions. Perhaps he could take a cue from our shrinking navy/horse/bayonet populations by wearing a subtler pin, before it veers irrevocably into nametag-at-business-conference territory.
Obviously, we would have welcomed pocket squares and tie bars, but gone are the glory days of Truman’s horn-rims and Wilson’s club collars. Meanwhile, President Obama, help yourself to this point.
One could hardly watch the debates and not notice the elegant ladies on the sidelines, out of their traditional binders.
It surely is a daunting task to go up against someone who has been variously compared to every style icon from Jackie O. to Carla Bruni, but we’d argue that Ann Romney admirably held her own. Noticeably favoring celebrated designer Oscar de la Renta, she kept to classy, conservative outfits similar to those of Lady Bird Johnson and Barbara Bush.
The FLOTUS, on the other hand, kept to her signature youthful style, scoring major PR points with the fashion crowd by a) wearing exalted emerging designers like Preen and Thom Browne, and b) re-wearing her outfits. We didn’t forget the (first) lady who popularized Prabal Gurung also keeps her consumer cool.
The first lady fashion faceoff came to a head when both women showed up at the second debate in identical shades of Pepto-Bismol pink, with Michelle Obama in a Michael Kors dress-and-bolero-jacket number, and Ann Romney in a cap-sleeved tweed shift dress by her go-to designer.
Many debates have been had in the Intermission newsroom over this issue, but the verdict falls in favor of the impeccable Michelle O. The model-armed first lady wins top spot with her youthful yet regal sartorial sensibilities.
The final verdict: Who wore it better?
Ultimately, President Obama and his team come out tops in the fashion debate – if the elections were solely based on dress sense, we’d go right ahead and endorse the man. Whoever becomes the next POTUS this Tuesday, though, we wish him all the best in his sartorial endeavors.