Ahead of Iowa, Winners in Presidential Style


The presidential hopeful Donald J. Trump at a campaign event Saturday at Clinton Middle School in Clinton, Iowa.

Eric Thayer for The New York Times

Just as the Iowa caucuses, the first official test of the 2016 presidential election, begin, and with the New Hampshire primary looming next week, a new study has been released that looks at the candidates and their appeal in a somewhat different light. To be specific: a fashion light.

On Monday, the Global Language Monitor, a Texas-based company that tracks word usage online, unveiled its first presidential candidates fashion study, which ranks perceptions of the candidates according to the following categories: presidential style, off-the-rack style, prêt-à-porter (designer) style and overall style.

The company says the results were culled from “billions of web pages, millions of blogs, the top 375,000 global print and electronic media, and new social media formats” across the English-speaking linguasphere.

And the overall winner is … Donald Trump! By a wide margin.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas came in second, followed closely by Hillary Clinton, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Jeb Bush.


The presidential hopeful Ted Cruz at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines on Sunday.

Eric Thayer for The New York Times

No surprise there. Mr. Trump is the most talked-about candidate over all on pretty much every subject, so a trouncing would be expected. Just as the fact that Martin O’Malley barely figures on any of the graphs makes a certain amount of sense.

But there are some unexpected nuggets. For example: Mr. Christie is in a dead heat with Mr. Cruz and Mr. Trump in presidential style.

Mr. Christie: dark horse. Maybe all his hammering home that he has had executive experience has paid off.

Similarly, it’s notable that, despite all the discussion of her clothes, and the relatively pricey Ralph Lauren outfit she wore at her opening campaign rally, Mrs. Clinton tops the off-the-rack category, suggesting her image is associated with less expensive and less polished fashion choices.

She’s also fifth in the prêt-à-porter ranking — after Messrs. Christie, Cruz and Trump, and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. (who was included because his possible candidacy was a factor earlier in the race) — which lends credence to the idea that her clothing is not considered a major issue.

And when it comes to both presidential style and prêt-à-porter, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont trails Mrs. Clinton by only a tiny margin, suggesting, said Paul J. J. Payack, the founder of the Global Language Monitor, that “he has a style that is recognizably his own, which people identify.”


Hillary Clinton tops the off-the-rack category, suggesting her image is associated with less expensive and less polished fashion choices.

Doug Mills/The New York Times

(Oddly, given his formerly rumpled appearance, Mr. Sanders ranks quite far down on the off-the-rack scale — a standard that would seem to favor the less than fashionable — which may mean his recent more polished look has actually had a real effect.)

Pointedly, too, Mr. Bush seems not quite as irrelevant to these rankings as recent reports of his weakness may lead one to assume. Whereas Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is near or in the bottom half in almost every category, despite his bootgate moment last month.

Admittedly, this could all be “a bit of fun,” as Mr. Payack called it, and not reflective of what is really going on in voters’ minds (and it does include conversations that take place abroad, and thus may not affect the primary season).

But it is telling that the Global Language Monitor, which has analyzed President Obama’s speeches, as well as tracked a number of political narratives including the BP oil spill, decided to turn its attention to fashion.

“Optics increasingly play an important role in elections, as even the candidates’ staffs admit,” Mr. Payack said. “The world’s attitude toward fashion has changed greatly. Image is key, thanks to ubiquitous cellphones, combined with social media like Facebook, Twitter and Vine, so an analysis of each candidate’s sartorial choices is a meaningful area of investigation.”

He said he was surprised by some of the findings, especially Mr. Christie’s showing.

“But a few years ago, when we were looking at words of the year, ‘sustainability’ came up, and everyone thought, ‘oh, that’s weird’ — and now sustainability is everywhere,” Mr. Payack said. “So often, word usage can reflect an upcoming trend.”

Guess we’ll find out, as the results start rolling in.

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