I am a leftwing male politician who would like to be taken seriously. How should I dress?
A Politician, by email
Well, first of all, Mr Politician, well done you for acknowledging that fashion plays an important role in leftwing politics, arguably even more so than in rightwing politics. For too long, leftwing politicians have acted as though giving consideration to aesthetic matters was something shallow, shameful, as distasteful as wondering whether one should have a butler and a cleaner or a combined housekeeper. This, clearly, is absurd. Politics is all about conveying a message with impact, and few things do that as quickly and simply as fashion. So I am happy to see that lefty politicians around the world have finally come round to this way of thinking, from Yanis Varoufakis in his “Let’s get this business done” leather jacket to Jeremy Corbyn and his “Hi, I’m a student and just read Das Kapital” black flat cap.
I appreciate that both of these men – or, more accurately, devoted fans of both of these men – will argue that these are not stylistic tricks; rather, these men have worn these items for decades because they’re as true to their values as they are to their clothes. But that is precisely the point: their clothes have communicated this, and these men undoubtedly know that. After all, being anti-fashion is as much a style statement as being on trend. Now, personally, some of us think that Corbyn could consider updating his ideas as much as his wardrobe, but I know how much criticism of St Jeremy upsets some sensitive readers, so let’s not go there so soon after such a nice long weekend.
So the style for leftwing politicians now (and, indeed, always) is to look as if you don’t care about your look while very much cultivating a look. Corbyn is the obvious British example, with his almost antagonistically scruffy style. I don’t have time to see whether my jacket matches my trousers, his look cries – I’m too busy thinking about the poor and the downtrodden! Do you really think I care about your opinion of my favoured look of shorts and trainers with black socks? Corbyn and I might have certain differences but, by God, I love how he dresses. He must spend veritable hours cultivating that look, unless there’s a store on Holloway Road that I’ve missed called 1970s Polytechnic Lecturer 4 U. Honestly, where can you even buy tracksuits like the ones he sports?
Bernie Sanders is the American version, of course, with his skew-whiff hair and lumpy jackets. Speaking as one New York Jew to another, Bernie, never change – but maybe think about buying your suits from somewhere else other than the Goodwill in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.
Thus, leftwing politicians should dress like death warmed over. But there is an exception to this rule, and that exception is female-shaped. Dressing like you just fell into a dirty laundry basket is seen as adorable, charming, even refreshing from a male politician. But if – oh, just say – Hillary Clinton or even Diane Abbott left the house without even having their hair done they would be carted off to wherever it is women are sent when their refusal to kowtow to beauty standards becomes unacceptable (Ann Widdecombe, do send a postcard). Instead, they have to look as sleek as any other female politician – and then they get criticised by lefty supporters for looking “too corporate” and insufficiently dedicated to the cause.
So, in conclusion: leftwing male politicians, dress like the undead and be elected a national treasure for it. Leftwing female politicians, dress like any other woman in the public eye and suck up the hate. Happy to help!
Why can’t I stop getting into arguments online?
Sam Cooper, by email
It’s like the old cliche about a knife and a gun, Sam. Put simply, it’s a lot easier to shoot someone than stab them because you can do the former from a safely impersonal distance. Think of online interaction as the gun here and face-to-face chat as the knife. Most people, if they’re not Donald Trump, don’t like shouting at people in their face. But shouting at them from behind a screen? Totally fine! And I am by no means immune to this. Over the weekend I found myself engaged in a three-hour quarrel – over Instagram, for Gawd’s sake – with a friend in the US because they had suggested that Clinton and Trump are essentially the same. Would I have let this pass in conversation? Probably, life is short. But online? My God, never! As the cartoon goes [https://xkcd.com/386/], I couldn’t possibly go to bed – someone was wrong on the internet.
Your feelings as you argue online tend to go as follows: ooh, this is fun! Oh man, I am SO going to win this argument! Wait, this is getting frustrating – type faster! God, I hate this person, I hate humanity and I hate myself, I need to stop this. Whoa, where did three hours go?
For your own sake, Sam, walk away from online fights and, if you can’t, just get offline. No one ever lay on their deathbed wishing they’d had more fights on social media.