Why don’t we talk about Barack’s suit?
I’m pretty rare for a man. On two seperate occassions, people choosing which words to write down to discribe me have identified me by my clothing. The words they used – “shambolic” and “disheveled” – were probably fair summaries of my sartorial elegance (or, rather, lack thereof). On both occassions, they went on to say nice things about other aspects of me.
No such luck for Michelle Obama. The Guardian has today run a full feature in the fashion section on what she is wearing. A significant proportion of the references to her on their live blog of the Obama family visit talked about her clothing or jewelry. If you Google her name, the top hits are all references to the clothes she chooses to wear.
OK, I know this is a pretty obvious thing to say. But Michelle Obama is a qualified lawyer who leads campaigns at home on obesity, on health, and on support for military families. In fact, later in the trip she will be co-hosting a barbecue at 10 Downing Street for military families. Isn’t that the kind of thing the press might be interested in writing about?
No, no, it’s not. They are much more concerned with what she wears – and what the mix of her wardrobe says about her. Mostly, they don’t bother at all to go on and say other nice things (or nasty things) about the rest of her work.
Now, I have no objection to people who think clothing can be interesting and beautiful, and who wish to write and talk about this art. But if what is being written is a sartorial analysis of the ‘special’ relationship, then why no comparisons between the clothing of the President and the Duke of Cambridge? Both were wearing very sharp suits. While we were told that Michelle’s dress wasn’t quite right for the blustery weather, what about Barack’s? And, more to the point, who designed his suit? What does the cut of it say about him? If Michelle’s mix of dress and jacket showed she had ‘substance’ what did Barack’s sharp suit say about him?
Well, I don’t really care. But it would be nice, when talking about clothes and about fashion, if we pretended, just for a second, that it wasn’t only women who are judged on what they wear, on how they appear. Obviously it would be nicer if people weren’t judged on how they appear. But maybe that’s too much to ask.