New Orleans Donald Trump showed up for three hours in Baton Rouge yesterday to make whatever hay he might out of the 1000-year flood in the area. Obama will be coming next week. He’ll be leaving his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard or some such and answering the cries of daily editorials in the Louisiana newspapers calling for him.
There was a picture of Trump in many of the newspapers along with his vice-presidential running mate, Indiana’s governor Mike Pence. The photo op had them helping unload a truck with donated supplies and helping hand those out in the blistering heat and suffocating humidity that makes a Louisiana day in an August summer the stuff of tropical legend. What struck me though was the fact that Trump was still “in uniform.”
Pence was wearing a short sleeve shirt with an open collar. Trump had on his now iconic white golf cap, which reportedly is his sartorial strategy to hold the comb over in place so he doesn’t get caught by any of the political photojournalist paparazzi with his remaining hair flying akimbo in all directions. Not surprisingly, it was also one of his key fundraising strategies throughout the campaign. He was wearing his usual white shirt and dark jacket. No tie, but this is clearly his all-purpose uniform. He has no message discipline, but total and absolute fashion discipline. His image is clearly what he sees as important and paramount, not his message. I find that fascinating and frightening at the same time. This is what presidential means to him.
But, it’s also a product of the media flesh-eating machine. Over the last week we’ve had more than our share of articles about the “buns” in the women’s hair at the Olympics and the number of sequins and rhinestones in the women gymnasts’ outfits. It all got to the point that a rouge feminist interviewer in Rio, watched by my daughter, was interviewing male Olympians and asking them about their uniforms and asking them to “take a twirl” for the viewers.
Reading the business section of the big national newspapers it becomes easier to follow the Trump uniform and its challenges, particularly at the gender divide. For Trump – and many other business folks – this is all about their “brand.” Women pictured in those pages and elsewhere have greater challenges. Of course there is Hillary and her pantsuits and big jackets, Marissa Mayer and her colorful combinations at Yahoo, or Sheryl Sandberg and her dark-colored monotones at Facebook, but for the rest of the tribe there is uncertainty. Do they go with the rigid, formal suit or the summer flounce to message professionalism or friendliness?
Why can’t we move past the trivialities of “dad” jeans and sleeveless dresses? Certainly Trump doesn’t mean to teach us anything, but his boring, standard issue uniform is a clear message he is shrewdly planting in all of us, whether we like it or not.