The Labour Party in the UK has a new leader – voted in by an excited one person, one vote party. Until last week he was a rebellious back bencher. Now he is in charge, MPs are having to come to terms with him (a man many have never spoken to). For students of UK politics it will be interesting to see if he compromises in order to find a workable arrangement with Labour MPs, or sticks to his principles that have endeared him to his party.
Who cares about the politics – what about the clothes? Here we have the new leader leaving his Victorian north London home on the way to the House of Commons. He is wearing a vest. Over that, a dark shirt and casual trousers with a beige cotton jacket that maybe a little bit big for his slim frame (a cycling vegetarian). Over one shoulder he wears a big bag with all his important parliamentary papers in it. He is a nice looking 66 years old. He has always worn a beard – harking back to when it was somewhat rebellious to do so. Today of course the beard is mainstream. He looks like a middle class, middle aged, comfortable weekender. Not necessarily someone who wants to impress his authority on Parliament or the country. For a contrast with the previous Labour leadership, see this post.
In a nutshell he normally wears a shirt, over a vest, with trousers, and a jacket that doesn’t match, Not-a-Suit. Often the jacket is casual, like this Harrington jacket – good for keeping off the rain, and suitable for use on a bike or public transport. In his youth he wore brightly coloured jackets – green to indicate sympathy with Irish Repulicanism, red to indicate socialist opposition to the Royal family. These days he is Mr Beige.
The other signifier that Corbyn would wear, certainly in the past, was the Leninist hat, coupled sometimes with a white Peace poppy rather than the traditional Red one. This is the guy who won’t sing the national anthem either (as a Royalist song). In this sense he was following the tradition of the first leader of the Labour Party in Parliament Keir Hardie, who refused to wear a silk top hat favoured by the “gentlemen” in government. As a Scot he actually wore something more similar to a deerstalker than the “flat cap” favoured by both Corbyn and Lenin.
To a certain extent this is all a breath of fresh air – a change from spin-doctoring and image consultants. But for all his dishevelled, careless choices he is saying something striking and important. “I am authentic, I think for myself, I am a man of the people before I am an MP. I want to stay connected. My politics are principled and I will not conform to the “traditions” which keep the ruling class in power, even if they are trivial like wearing a dark suit and a silk tie.”
The funny thing about his clothes are that he reminds me of Boris Johnson, who also cultivates an individualistic look. Those who are strongly confident of their own standing can break the rules. As Corbyn is forced, as the Labour leader, to do more and more things he may find uncomfortable we will have to see which way he goes – conforming, or rebelling.
Certainly worth watching his wardrobe selections, to see if anything changes.
I have noticed that both Corbyn and Boris wear clothes that fit them and that makes them comfortable to look at. Have a look a a few of the blue side in the House of Commons. Their suits are so tight and they still will do one button up so they look like a sausage squeezed in the middle.
Even I could see that the jacket for pmqs was ill fitting, and needed pressing. His performance on the other hand was a pleasant change.
Michael Foot was ridiculed for his appearance, not his policies. Do we need politicians to look authoritative? I suppose it depends on whether you think that they are there to govern you, or there because you elected them to carry forward policies you liked the sound of. Although I spend time looking at sartorial choices, checking out the clothes people are wearing for style and fit, I see nothing wrong with the choice of individualistic or shambolic dress. What Bojo and JC have in common apart from an insouciant attitude to dress is a tendency to speak their minds.
I’m a huge fan of Obi-Wan Corbyni, and it’s his slightly rumpled edge that adds to my confidence- he looks like a teacher to me. Not getting into the politics, but I think he’s a breath of fresh air in contrast to all those [I agree with Linde] sausagey blue suits and stuffed shirts. I hate Boris though!
Well, as a former historian of the Soviet Union, I am happy (and a little shocked) to hear Lenin mentioned in a blog! I just saw a friend from Oxford who is also a Corbyn supporter. She brought Corbyn buttons with her to the US.
Nothing wrong with a man dressing for comfort and cycling at the same time. Maybe he has different clothes to change into at the office? The feeling with voters in the US is that they are fed up with career politicians and want real people to govern them. It is also a feeling in Canada in a few of their recent elections along with selecting environmental candidates for a greener and kinder future…it all sounds like the pendulum can swing a little to the left and not cause any major catastrophes. Linde hits the nail on the head.. sausages…ha ha!
It’s going to be very interesting to watch how it all progresses. I agree that he sets his stall out with his appearance – he clearly hasn’t been groomed and polished, and similarly his speeches don’t feel forced and spun. They may not flow so nicely, but it’s easier to trust someone who seems to be speaking for himself and not an agreed brand. Fingers crossed that the inevitable compromises are healthy and respectful, and that the integrity remains. NB. The comparison to Boris scared me and made me laugh at the same time!
How Jeremy Corbyn could smarten up his act.
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