This post has been updated.
You give up a lot of things when you run for president — sleep, privacy, time with family and something else: personal style.
It’s true. There’s an unwritten running-for-president dress code. For men, the mandatory ensemble consists of a dark, boxy suit; black leather dress shoes; immaculately pressed button-down shirt — in white, always white — and a wide silk necktie, preferably in patriotic red and/or blue or, occasionally, bipartisan purple. And don’t forget the American-flag lapel pin. For women, it’s either a pantsuit or a knee-length skirt with a blazer. Bright colors are okay, but patterns not so much, and modesty is paramount.
There’s a bit more freedom on the campaign trail than there is on the debate stage or in the TV studio — sweaters and rolled sleeves are fine, as are cowboy boots when geographically appropriate — but you rarely see anything that could be described as fashion-forward.
So it’s no wonder the media lost its collective mind when Republican White House hopeful Marco Rubio showed up in New Hampshire this week to campaign in what I’ll call — making my best attempt at neutral language here — some well-heeled ankle boots.
That tweet above is from New York Times reporter Michael Barbaro, in case you didn’t recognize the byline.
New York magazine declared that “a vote for Marco Rubio is a vote for men’s high-heeled booties” and compared Rubio’s footwear to the sort favored by Harry Styles of One Direction. (Note to politicos: That’s a band.) Elle magazine agreed that “Harry Styles and Marco Rubio are totally #twinning in heels.”
The conservative South Carolina-based website Fitsnews added Rubio’s “decidedly metrosexual footwear” to its list of reasons not to vote for him. (Another reason: “He hates individual liberty.”)
Meanwhile, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough thought a more apt Rubio comparison was to Austin Powers; the “Morning Joe” host dubbed the senator’s boots “shagalicious” on Wednesday.
And Vanity Fair did its best to get to the bottom of where Rubio may have purchased the boots, but its investigation proved inconclusive. Possibilities ranged from Giorgio Brutini ($85) to Maison Margiela ($995). Rubio’s campaign later informed Politico that the boots were, in fact, from Florsheim ($135).
Even rival campaigns got in on the fun:
If it isn’t obvious by now, allow me to put a finer point on the reason behind the media’s fascination with Rubio’s boots: Candidates’ wardrobes are so dull — and reveal so little about their personalities — that the press revels in even the slightest hint of self-expression. A big part of the media’s job, after all, is to figure out who these people are. Although most of us use attire to send signals to the world about our individual tastes, politicians seldom do because they basically wear uniforms.
As a man who took some ribbing in the newsroom for wearing suspenders this week [Editor's note: Cal is a stylish man], I think this is a shame. I wish presidential candidates would take more chances and show us a little bit more of themselves through the way they dress.
Instead, I fear that all the media attention on Rubio means that his boots will go the way of the tan suit President Obama wore to a news conference in 2014 — never to be seen again.