Politician Style Watch: Michael Fabricant

WWP is astounded.  The minute I saw that blonde head poke out over Ken Clarke’s shoulder in PMQs, I knew that this post had already written itself. For in a world of mundane suits and receding hairlines, a wig-like hairstyle excites all that is politically fashionable in me, even though the photo above would feature heavily in my definition of the antithesis of fashion.
Michael Fabricant is the conservative MP for Lichfield in Staffordshire.  Until now he has generally sat quiet in a variety of semi-fun roles in the Commons (culture, media and sport select committee; BBC drama political adviser), yet last year saw him raise his Ken-doll head above the UKIP parapet and call for an alignment of the two parties.  Particularly, he is calling for a weird, electoral barter, whereby if the government calls for a referendum over the EU, UKIP will not stand for some seats at the next election.  Hence the Tories will scrape the racists (sorry, EU-skeptics) from the bottom of the constituency pan and, voila,  win a majority in parliament.
Well, that’s the plan.  And one that looks increasingly unlikely to work due to: i) Nigel Farage’s sibling rivalry/hatred of Cameron, ii) Miliband and Labour’s biblical resurrection in the opinion poll stakes and iii) Fabricant’s slur that branded Ukip and some members of his own party as ‘closet racists.’
When WWP started researching the post, I was very sure that it would be entitled ‘Michael Fabricunt’ and proceed to be a predictably exasperated rant about out-of-touch Tory boys that can’t come to terms with male pattern baldness.  However after following him on Twitter, I have formed a soft spot in my heart for Michael.  He’s a 62 year old politician who knows how to utilise social media for a start, and tweets about the price of a pint, John Lewis adverts and inside Tory jokes.  It is unlikely that this will ever lure in the voters. But whilst he has a seat it’s refreshing to see an MP who has a sense of humour and an idiosyncratic dress sense.

Politician Style Watch: Cristina Fernadez de Kirchner

That mighty country of steak and the tango seems to have an uncanny knack of producing captivating politicians, one that Britain simply does not possess. Teresa May with a good blowdry and filled-in eyebrows?  I think not.  But sexy and savvy, Argentina’s president can command politics without sacrificing her femininity.

Cristina and her beautiful (I assume Chanel) tweed add a certain amount of Latin colour to the South American political landscape.  Mirroring that foxy Peron lady she followed her husband into politics, gaining just enough of the presidential vote needed to slyly slip herself into the top job in 2007.  She is an advocate of equality, consumption and fairness; her political style is ballsy and ultimately feminist.  Feminist in the sense that everything she believes is clearly right and she’ll aggressively ignore you until you apologise – sorry Brazil, that’s just the woman Argentina is.  Of course, this attitude sometimes gets her into little spots of trouble: her attempt to reclaim the Falklands – positively laughed at by British politicians – and allegations of corruption and crony capitalism to name but a few.

However sick this President must be of constantly getting compared to Evita, the comparisons are so vehemently blatant that it would almost be rude to ignore them.  As Fernandez put it herself, she is the Eva Peron with  “the hair in a bun and the clenched fist before a microphone.”  Add to this a wardrobe so exquisitely large that she is often late to diplomatic meetings because she is getting dressed, you have the archetype of what a female Head of State should, and successfully can, be.  Oh, and since her husband’s death she has only worn black.  Queen Victoria, you have been put to shame. 

WAG Watch: Sam Cameron

As painful as it is for a student of politics to write about the wives of politicians (there are few real ‘girlfriends’ in the British political sphere due to the fact that everyone’s married or awkwardly closeted), it would be slightly anachronistic for a blog like this not to mention them.  And at the end of the day, as much as I’d love to see Tom Ford style Ed Balls on a day-to-day basis, I’d much prefer to write about Carla Bruni’s penchant for Dior.  Or bitch about Yvette Cooper’s hair.  Whatever.  So to start at the top of the pile as it were, enter Spouse of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Samantha Cameron.

The question of whether Mrs. Cameron actually likes being called ‘Sam’ must be asked.  After all, she is descended from King Henry VIII, and comes from the same gene pool as Princess Diana.

Yet she has done a pretty outstanding job at keeping this from the Great British Public.  Yes, her family own two, 300-acre estates but she studied art at Bristol Polytech; yes, she named her second child Arthur Elwin but she’s got a cute Deschanel-esque fringe in place of a horrendous Cherie Blair blow dry.  Her style is somewhere between poster-girl for the Whistles’ Basics range and Carole Middleton on crack.  She knows what suits her, accessorises near-perfectly and in another life I’m sure she could have made it as a model.

For the Boden catalogue maybe, but a model nonetheless.

The thing WWP likes the most about Sam is her face.  It has this permanent demeanor of ‘I’m too busy for this politics business…where’s my intern? I need a macchiato pronto.’ Coupled with her mildly hilarious aversion to hats (opting for a clip-in fascinator at the Royal Wedding, going sans headwear at the opening of parliament), SamCam has turned out to be one of the more successful first ladies to grace our lands, Zara blazers and all.

Sartorially Satanic: Nava-No!

Urban Outfitters is the hipsters’ brand of choice: all strange cuts, see-through material and interesting prints.  Said interesting prints however  landed UO in a political storm, moreover one that is debatably racial.  A couple of years ago the store brought in the Navajo print, one that takes its name from a Native American tribe and to add insult to injury, directly copies their traditional prints.

After a young Native American woman wrote an open letter to the CEO of UO (on a website called ‘Racialicious’ I kid you not), the culture and fashion blogosphere apparently imploded with anti-racial good intentions.  Petitions circulated demanding the line, which includes amongst other products knickers and a hipflask, be discontinued.  In one blogger’s words: “The arrogance of this company should make other groups wary of their products, lest their culture is the next to be satirized for a quick hipster buck.”  Oh dear UO.

Maybe it’s because WWP is of British refinement, maybe it’s because WWP is an ignorant bigot, but the point that could crucially be missing here is that these outcries are coming from America, and Urban Outfitters is a global brand.  It is entirely possible that the designs were dreamt up by a Danish design genius who hadn’t even watched Pocahontas, let alone known who the Navajo were.  But of course, any sort of appropriation of Native American culture is just another kick in the teeth for those with tribal heritage, and a kick-back to the 17th century.

It’s an interesting debate, but one that seems to have died.  Over the last two years every high-street store has gone crazy for this so-called Navajo print; even Marks and Spencer admitted in 2012 that they hadn’t bought in enough ‘tribal print.’  But in a wider context, it is interesting to consider how delicate the boundary is between fashion and religion.

Where would this debate put George Michael’s cross earring, Marlene Dietrich’s turban or every Islamic rug that decorates the parquet flooring of middle-class Surrey?  I’m sure every fashion design will have been influenced by religion somewhere along the line.  Except in the case of Jack Wills.  But that could be classed as the work of the devil.

NB: The Navajo tribe are in the process of successfully suing Urban Outfitters for using the Navajo name for branding purposes.  Keep up to date with the Navajo Times: http://www.navajotimes.com/news/2013/0513/053013urb.php

Historic Style Secrets: Plato and Aristotle

 

As WWP is an unashamed Greekophile, Mythology nerd and student of ancient philosophy, it seemed like a good time to discuss the merits of ancient Greek menswear.  Never in history has there been clothing so androgynous yet so flattering – and also so practical.

Athenians of today do not dress for their climate; women totter round in skin tight jeans, kitten heels and black Missoni t-shirts and men, ancestors of democracy, favour the low-slung chino and overly open-buttoned shirt.  Comparison to the fresco above is futile.

Plato and Aristotle were two very similar men with different ideas.  Born into a time when sexual urges could be overcome by the pleasure of the mind, philosophers lived together in schools in order to understand…well, everything.  Plato quite fancied the idea of a society segregated by talent; a Republic as Utopian as it gets which falls short at the killing babies part.  Aristotle took a slightly more reasonable approach that was big on natural virtue ethics and one that assumes man needs politics to live a fulfilled life.  Quite the way to keep yourself in business boy.

In this painting, Plato (the one pointing at the sky) has pioneered colour blocking, the three-quarter length sleeve and the neckerchief.  Aristotle has gone for an ethereal embroidery and khaki to highlight his olive skin tones.

So something clearly went wrong in the middle ages when it came to fashion.  And hygiene.  And overall well-being when it comes down to it.  The Greeks seemed to have it all, only for the world to flush it away with the pig slop.  Not so surprisingly Grecian inspired style is still one of the most flattering that there is – skimming and clinching where it needs to – and one that no doubt will stick around for a while at least. As far as I know, Stella McCartney doesn’t have Joan of Arc-inspired collection in the pipeline.

Politician Style Watch: Barack O-Boring

As APEC met this month for the third annual Senior Officials Meeting, let me take the opportunity to all at once swoon and condemn Obama.  I’m talking of that monumental, groundbreaking summit: APEC 2011.

It would be true to say that most inhabitants of Western society had high hopes for Obama, give or take a few Republicans, KKK members and the like.  And women everywhere were surely lusting after a president that was oh so easy on the eye.  But for a politician so cutting-edge in many ways – one that actually inhales his marijuana  – why the decision of ‘breaking with’ one of the very, very few fun diplomatic traditions?

The APEC summit has been famous for leaders of nations dressing up in the host country’s traditional dress.  This has provided photos dripping with comedy gold (personal favourite: George Bush in a poncho) and yet in 2011, on an island synonymous with outlandish clothing, there wasn’t a Hawaiian shirt in sight.  Obama may quite rightly have been following that risky rule of political fashion – to dress how you feel.  If an economic corporation were to follow this to the letter I can imagine even mourning suits wouldn’t cut it and orange jumpsuits would be shipped in from Guantanemo.

But maybe the decision was for his own self-preservation: no longer the new boy but the serious incumbent that had an electoral campaign to run.  And win.

Perhaps on a more trivial note, the situation begs the question of ‘what if it had been any other state of America?’  Cowboy hats and Levis in Texas?  Abercrombie and Fitch in California?  Carrie’s Sex and the City main-sequence tutu in New York?  America just does not appear to have a cohesive traditional dress.  Perhaps if they were to be one it could include a McDonalds baseball hat.  Or a bumbag.  But that’s for another blog post.

AdWatch: Oh, Lolita!

Marc Jacobs runs some of the best ad campaigns in the business.  Something about the pictures screams amateur; they’re aloof, saturated, they’re fun.  I confess the only films I’ve seen Dakota Fanning in are War of the Worlds and Man on Fire (she spends 80% of the script screaming in both) but, judging by her red carpet choices and coyness, she seems fun too.

The problem with this is advert, is it’s just too darn fun for the UK.

The UK Standards Advertising Agency has pulled the campaign as it is too “suggestive.”  It seems that the UK Standards Advertising Agency has missed the point.  Lola – a handwriting slip away from Lolita – suggests a provocative 14 year old, who’s crazy and manipulative and sexual.  A flower in full bloom between her legs is genius; imagine Marc Jacobs, a raging queen, giggling at the suggestion that ‘Dakota should just go for it honey, look like you’re just BALANCING it there, oh my gosh, it’s hilarious, it’s perfect!’  And Dakota, who is 17 I might add, would laugh along.

 I’m sure many of us had held worse things between their thighs when we were 17.  Poor Dakota (who’s real name is Hannah out of interest, and wasn’t born in Dakota, north or south) probably has too.  It’s a sad fact that our regulatory bodies have to jump to pedophilia when fashion is simply mirroring Russian literature.  It’s not Dakota Fanning’s fault she’s so skinny.

Bitch.