I don’t get many requests with this blog, but I do get a few. One I have had from a number of people is to turn my analytical gaze on Mr Boris Johnson, the current Mayor of London, author of a new book on Churchill, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, ex-Eton scholar, and possible contender for Leader of the Conservative Party.
Boris is an interesting fellow and someone I have got to know a little bit in his role as London supremo. We build houses for low-income Londoners so he is interested in what we can achieve. I have found him to be very amusing and genuinely interested in housing. But in terms of his dress – he is a disgrace.
On the left we see him in China promoting London’s interests. Those actors from the Bejing Opera with their wonderful costumes and make up must have wondered what this white-haired chap was doing with his thumbs in the air and his trousers billowing around his thighs. The jacket is the wrong length, the colour unflattering and the shirt collar curling up in shame. If you are going to promote London and the UK abroad you have to promote our fashion and style. You have an obligation to show case our brilliant tailoring, quality menswear and innovative fashion industry.
As for the cycling outfit – it is just nasty. While it is great that the Mayor promotes healthy transport options and wears a helmet, the overall dishevelled look is quite absurd. He looks bulky, crumpled and uncomfortable. He may even be wet through. Surely if you are a regular cyclist there is a case for wearing smart cycling gear and changing into a suit in the office? Can you really turn up at a serious meeting with a layer of sweat between you and your shirt. Half businessman, half cyclist with a rucksack, half delegate with silly badge (surely Boris could get into the olympic park without a ticket?) – and failing at all three.
In fact this “couldn’t care less” look is carefully cultivated. When a photographer is around Boris ruffles his badly cut hair so that it looks as out-of-place as possible. He drops his suits on the floor at night and rarely polishes or replaces his shoes. He tries to look a mess. I know someone who works for him who, when he was running for Mayor, bought him some new Paul Smith suits. She commented that his colouring is very light. This suit – messy and ill-fitting though it is – is the right colour for a man who is almost albino in his shading. The light grey Prince of Wales check, and the white open neck shirt have the beginnings of a good look for Boris. Compared to black or navy suits this one gives him a much better, integrated look and he should certainly wear light grey, light navy, or lighter grey blues. The best tie colours would be light turquoise, green, blue or pink. A belt would be good. As would a shirt that tucked in properly, and a waist band that lined up. Look at the shoulders and the sagging button holes – caused by not even using a coat hanger at night I believe.
In some ways taking very little interest in clothes might be an admirable quality in a politician and world leader. The constant media scrutiny and criticism means that whatever you do it will come in for criticism – so those in the public eye feel they cannot win. At one level Boris has decided to ham it up and look about as terrible as he possibly can, in an attempt to combat the carefully cultivated image approach that politicans feel compelled to adopt. All I can say is that Boris has a great sense of humour. He is ambitious, clever and has widespread appeal. You couldn’t become Tory Mayor of London without the votes of lots of people who are voting for the man, not the Party. Boris is individualistic, and gives out an important message when he choses a beige fleece, a black Beenie, black ankle socks and lily-white legs for the cameras. By deliberately choosing an unflattering and eccentric outfit he is rebelling in a way that connects with many.
That last photo – ow, my eyes!
I hate Boris’ politics, but you’ve got me with your use of the word rebellious here – it’s why so many are so fond of him: because he is a bit different in appearance.
I’m trying to imagine if a woman took this approach and tried to enter public life…
One of those larger than life characters who don’t need to worry about their appearance I guess. I wish he’d been around when the press were gleefully ripping into Michael Foot for his shabby raincoat.