Jeb Bush Makes a Major Fashion Statement


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Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, formally joined the presidential race on Monday in Miami.

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David Goldman/Associated Press

Jeb Bush is his own man. How do we know this? Well, he says it a lot. But more important, he showed it on Monday in Miami — becoming the first candidate in his family, and possibly the first candidate ever, to announce his bid for the United States’ highest office in… shirt sleeves.

Message: He has his own style. In every sense of the word.

Forget the tie! Forget the jacket! Who needs ‘em? He is a cool, go-getter politician. Those trappings of the executive suite just slow him down.

They also, of course, could make him look like everyone else, especially his brother George W. Bush, who announced in 1999 in a gray suit, white shirt and blue patterned tie, and his father, the elder George Bush, who announced in 1987 in gray suit, white shirt and dark patterned tie.

Not to mention every other male Republican candidate who has announced this year. I won’t go through them all, because there are a lot of them, but examples of men and their wardrobe choices on their announcement day include:

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida: dark suit, light blue tie

Former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas: dark suit, light blue tie

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas: gray suit, dark gray striped tie

Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania: dark suit, red tie

You get the idea.

Even Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the candidate most dedicated to attacking the suit-wearing titans of Wall Street, and the one who theoretically could have the most claim to abandoning the uniform, announced his bid for the Democratic nomination in a dark suit and dark patterned tie.

And President Obama, who made something of a signature of being photographed in his shirt sleeves during the 2008 campaign, the better to signify his youth and new-day-ness, announced his bid wearing a dark overcoat and tie.

It was Illinois in December, after all. There was probably a suit jacket under the coat.

But Mr. Bush? He’s an outlier.

It’s actually kind of a big deal. Consider moments in the past when leaders already in office have abandoned the uniform of office and opted for more “relaxed” looks: the time in 2013 when Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain demanded that the Group of 8 members adopt Casual Friday, for example, much to the horror of the Twitterati.

Indeed, the only no-tie-wearing leaders who have really gotten away with it recently are Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of Greece and his cabinet members, and they are very left wing.

That’s not really how Mr. Bush identifies.

Abandoning the jacket and tie is a pretty clear effort to emphasize his independence and modernity, and his awareness of how the younger, non-tie-wearing generation likes to dress. It may be more true to his personal preferences as well, though a trawl through old pictures of Mr. Bush finds him wearing suits at least half the time. But I wonder if the decision will backfire.

After all, Americans tend to like their presidents to look, well, presidential. And that most often involves a suit. They like them to display respect for the office. And that most often involves a suit.

It will be interesting to see what Mr. Bush wears for the debates.



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