As the late, great Joan Rivers used to say, “Can we talk?”
I am speaking, of course, about the third and final presidential debate. I assume that you have already made up your mind as to which candidate you are voting for.
If you are still undecided, please call me up and let’s chat. I’m dying to know how that works. Have you not seen enough TV ads yet? Do you feel the need to sift through just a little more slung mud or laugh at a few more vicious memes before you decide? Surely, by this point, you have long since made a decision as to whether you would be more offended by a woman or a circus act in the Oval Office.
But only call if you are legitimately undecided. That I find fascinating. Why you have made the choice you have made is decidedly less fascinating. And I’ve heard it all before. In both directions. You have made up your mind, I have made up mine, and I hope we can still be friends.
Meanwhile, let’s discuss the optics of Wednesday’s debate. Talk about fascinating.
From the neck up, both candidates were on their A-game. He was far less orange than usual and the customary reverse-raccoon white rings around his eyes were not in evidence. Between the second and third debates, she shed about 10 years from her face somehow. “Mini-lift,” one of my friends guessed. Another friend commented that she has the best old-lady helmet hair she has ever seen. And great streaks. If her opponent can afford it, he should try some streaks. Now that he’s toned down the orange, it would offer a little contrast between his face and hair/rug/weave/dead possum on his head which, by the way, Wednesday night was looking more like actual hair.
But below the neck, the game changes. The Republican candidate, being male, wears his usual uniform. The Democratic candidate, being female, has no uniform and is expected to create a new look every time she goes out in public.
Trump wore what I assume was a Brioni suit, as is his custom. Whether he has two or 200 of them, I couldn’t say. They all look alike. As I said, it’s a uniform. Red power tie — Check. Once again, whether he has three or a thousand, I have no idea. He has only abandoned that talisman one time that I know of; at the first debate when his opponent turned up in head to toe red. I can only imagine him yanking the blue tie he wore that night off the first Democratic minion who wandered within arm’s reach. The necktie — that useless, vestigial remnant of some long lost garment — is really the only variable in the male uniform.
Women’s clothing is exactly the opposite. Everything is a variable. There is the opportunity to create a look. There is also the burden of having to create a look. The look Clinton went for Wednesday night was Starfleet Commander, boldly positioned to whisk us all off to a glorious, gleaming future. Leastways, that’s what the Twitterverse was calling it right after the debate.
Danny Valentini said “Hillary Clinton’s outfit is missing a Starfleet insignia. That’s a compliment.” Leila Brillson waxed eloquent with, “Hillary Clinton looks like a Supreme Being from our Genderless Future in which we all have marble furniture and mood-lighting.” Rachel Sklar added, “Hillary in white! Our knight. Truth and light.”
I hear Leila and Danny and all of the other tweeters but when I saw Hilz walk out onto that stage, my first thought was “Jeez, Hillary. That pantsuit is a little Chairman Mao. Is that really the message you’re trying to send?”
One of my more conservative friends who loathes and despises Hillary Clinton with a visceral passion that is mighty to behold was quick to embrace the Chairman Mao imagery. It melded perfectly with her notion of Hilz and I doubt seriously if it was an image the Secretary or Ralph Lauren intended.
But that’s the difficulty of creating a look. Sometimes you go for Starfleet Commander and you get Chairman Mao.
The one who’s getting off easiest here is Bill Clinton. Spouses of presidents and potential presidents have their clothing choices analyzed and criticized endlessly. But in this entire interminable campaign, I have only read one item about his choices. According to Jenny Avins in the Bubba Style section of Quartz, he wore a rather fetching blue pantsuit to make his speech at the Democratic convention. Of course, Avins was facetiously calling out the double standard applied to presidential spouses. Otherwise, crickets.
And what are we supposed to call him if his wife is elected? First Gentleman won’t work as he is no gentleman. First Dude perhaps. I’m sure there will be some support for First Bubba. And he’ll be able to wear any old suit he wants and no one will notice, leaving him plenty of time to peruse a new generation of White House interns.
But his wife, in addition to being the leader of the free world, will have the added responsibility of having her wardrobe choices judged every single day in a way that no other president before has been judged.
I would imagine she and Ralphie will darken and neutralize the colors somewhat and try for more of a uniform that doesn’t draw much attention to itself. But they’re still going to have to mix it up a little. Even if she breaks the ultimate glass ceiling, she will still be judged on what she wears while she does it.
There’s no danger of that changing anytime soon.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699 or on Twitter @BillColvard.