Rep. Paul Ryan wasn’t wearing a tie when former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney announced him as his pick for the vice presidential spot on the Republican ticket.
James Carville, who grew up in the tropical, swampy climate of Louisiana and is one unlikely fashion cop, started a whole discussion on this decision among the commentators on CNN.
Since Romney sported a tie but no jacket, you can check Twitter for jokes about the two of making a complete suit. In more important ways, too, the two do complement each other, ideologically and generationally.
Romney has governed more moderately than his running mate has legislated. Romney is 65, while Ryan at 42, is the same age as Romney’s oldest son.
I’ll admit that whatever the season, I like to see men wearing suits and ties. If they fit well, they look good. They look powerful. And a part of me believes that as this is a major event, the two should have been dressed more formally.
But it isn’t only politicians who are dressing more casually than they once did; casual Friday has overtaken the entire work week and moved into the church and temple, weddings and funerals.
Romney’s wardrobe has definitely become more casual in recent months. He’s often sporting a button-down Oxford shirt and khakis or even jeans, looking like Everyman. That’s a change from the full business suit and tie (plus makeup for the TV cameras) he wore in a rural Iowa diner where he looked out of place among the farmers.
Four years ago, President Obama and Vice President Biden dropped the jackets but kept the ties, and matching white shirts, during the announcement of the vice presidential candidate.
Since then, President Obama’s been criticized for giving up neckties in public appearances. But he didn’t start the trend.
You can go all the way back to 1980 and find President Ronald Reagan tieless for his speech in front of the Statue of Liberty announcing his fall campaign.
None of these candidates just chose whatever was clean from their closets. Plenty of thought goes into the message they’re sending with their attire.
Professional wardrobe consultants will tell you to dress for the job you want. Hey, Time magazine in 2007 put Romney on the cover and said he looked presidential. He was wearing a suit and tie in the photo.
They’ll also advise you to dress just one step above your audience; any more, and you appear condescending.
Rolled-up shirt sleeves shout, “We’ve got a job to do and we’re ready to get to work.” And though I miss the jacket and tie, I certainly approve that message.
Diana Reese is a freelance journalist in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter at @DianaReese.