We need to talk about Jeremy
The picture last Saturday of the soon to be crowned leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn got the nation thinking. After all either consciously or unconsciously when we dress we make a statement. For some the cut, cost and status of their clothes are the most important part of their non verbal repertoire. It is those first five seconds before a word is spoken that we make up out mind. Which is why most politicians wear neutral suits, with nor without a tie depending on how relaxed they want us to feel. WE dress either for convenience and or out of respect for our audience.
And as importantly for Corbyn we dress to show our respect and fear of authority. The school student who wants to show his lack of fear and respect for his a school knows how to wear the uniform. The Victorian worker wore a suit to show he understood the power of the church, chapel and mill owner.
So on Saturday our Jeremy cutting in from the left wing made a very strong statement.(see link) Nike semi trainers with black socks, extremely white legs and ill fitting knee length shorts with pockets bulging. This was topped off with a brown striped polo shirt which obviously didn’t match and he was carrying a green plastic folder.
He was saying with just about every piece that he really couldn’t care less, he was not interested in fashion, consumerism,the superficial. The power of the High Street, of conventional norms which underpin society meant nothing. Maybe by inference he was saying since he was anti consumerist he was anti business. Maybe.
Of course just as Nigel Farage publicly smoking and drinking pints was a dog whistling to all those UKIP supporters who think the world has gone mad and left them behind, so Jeremy was sending out a strong message to all those , and there are many, especially in the Labour Party. who think there is more to life than having a dress sense , being respectable and bowing to the Man.
The next day he was no longer the contender but the real thing. He strode out as Marks and Spencer man. Pale off the peg linen jacket,matching navy shirt and trousers and that metropolitan, non sexists style object, the leather man bag. No tie but it was early days.Here was man we could start to do business with.
Then on the Monday he was on the front bench in parliament, he is wearing a suit and tie. The tie slightly off centre in the way all naughty six formers wear them ,but it was on. Until he left the chamber, and then when talking to the press he had taken it off. Like the man who puts on and takes off his tie before and after the job interview.
Yesterday it was Westminster Abbey for the Battle of Britain service. Wearing a suit and tie BUT not singing the National Anthem. How calibrated is that?
So looking at these images we can tell he will be what HE wants to be. He can play respectable if needs be,but he will not play it for any length of time, politics is too important for play, for his message is more important. Like all believers he knows that what he is saying is true and that it doesn’t need focus groups, spin or clothes that fit to make it any more true. Others may confuse style with substance, not he.
And in an era which is revolting against the packaged, focus group fed, identikit politicians he so far has won the prize. But as the success of supermarkets show not everyone has turned their back on consumerism. Whether the majority of the 30 million voters in the UK will hear and approve the same message the 200,000 Labour activists bought, is of course another question.
For the reason that salesmen have to look smart is because in the end you have to trust them. A suit is code for the salesman respecting his would be client. Politicians are salesmen and in history scruffy as a sign of integrity usually only works when you have a gun in your hand.
Picture of Jeremy putting on his style