Monday 19 March 2018

From Emmanuel Macron's bicycle chic to Enda's runners: the most remarkable off-duty style of male politicians

(L to R), Emmanuel Macron, Barack Obama and Enda Kenny
(L to R), Emmanuel Macron, Barack Obama and Enda Kenny
Gallic chic: Emmanuel Macron
Ritzy grandad: Bill Clinton
The Populist: Donald Trump
The Garbled Effort: Enda Kenny
Streamlined: Leo Varadkar
Laidback Luxe: Barack Obama
The Trendsetter: Jeremy Corbyn
Unconventional: Justin Trudeau
Casual Sophisticate: Gerry Adams

Meadhbh McGrath

The road to political office is paved with banal menswear - the pale blue shirts and characterless suiting that many of our male world leaders and politicians are strapped into for most of their daily lives.

But what happens when a politician has to break out of that homogeneous business-casual uniform to go to a football match, a concert, or a breezy bike ride around their neighbourhood? What is he to wear during these dwindling moments of personal time?

As the 24-hour news cycle forbids such thing as 'privacy', every ill-judged bootcut jean and artfully distressed t-shirt will be captured in high-definition. We round up the most remarkable off-duty political styles - for better and for worse.


While Macron has been hailed as the boy wonder of European politics, in the style stakes he's been largely overshadowed by his wife, 64-year-old Brigitte Trogneux.

Yet Macron too has an air of Gallic chic about him. Last week, he glided through the streets of the coastal town Le Touquet in a padded gilet and flowy white scarf that no one but a Frenchman could dream of pulling off.

On Saturday, ahead of his decisive win in the French assembly election, he took to the saddle again, this time in a pink rugby shirt, dark jeans and electric blue loafers. Admittedly, the elements don't sit all that easily together, but we'll just about hand it to him - his boyish looks offset the pastel pink, and he's proving to be a thoroughly 21st century man. Formidable!


International heartthrob (and Canadian prime minister) Justin Trudeau has long had a taste for the unconventional. For a meeting with Enda Kenny on May the Fourth, he accessorised with Star Wars-themed socks, while a visit to the White House saw him committing the cardinal sin of pairing a navy suit with tan shoes (and rocking them).

The world's most dashing politician sends pulses racing anytime he steps out in a trim suit, but his record of casual dressing isn't so stellar.

At the 2012 premiere of Midnight's Children, he wore traditional (yet questionable) Indian dress with regrettable thong sandals, and famously donned a beige suit for his own wedding. But in recent years, his off-duty wardrobe has improved, most notably at Canada's annual LGBT pride parades. The pastel-hued linen shirt, complemented with a dreamy smile and a charming dose of enthusiasm, makes a colourful yet comfortable style statement.


The Populist: Donald Trump

You might expect a politician who has his own clothing label to possess some semblance of personal style, but the Donald seemingly has just two fashion modes: ill-fitting suits with overlong, over-compensating ties, or the tried-and-tested uniform of the middle-aged golfer - white polo shirt, khakis and gleaming baseball cap.

In one of his rare casualwear sightings, he keeps things conservative in chinos, a white shirt and navy blazer - a look that only adds to his right-wing populist appeal.


Laidback Luxe: Barack Obama

On retirement from office, a politician could be forgiven for slumping into the quiet anonymity of ill-fitting jeans, baggy fleeces and sensible walking shoes. But Obama gets a triumphant tick for his efforts to showcase a defined sartorial streak.

First up was his decided mastery of off-duty cool on return from holidaying in the Virgin Islands. At the airport, he rocked a pair of dark blue jeans, grey button-down and, the piece de resistance, a fitted brown leather jacket.

In the months since he's really locked down his casual look, opting for crisp shirts, slim-fit chinos and a general air of laidback luxe.


Ritzy grandad: Bill Clinton

Another former POTUS offered up a lesson in casual style for the older gentleman last year while supporting Hillary on the campaign trail.

His looks were comfortable yet polished. A red flannel shirt and dark washed jeans were dressed up with the addition of a well-cut navy blazer, and Bill kept a mossy green rollneck jumper from looking dowdy by pairing with a dressy check shirt.


The Garbled Effort: Enda Kenny

Poor Enda has struggled with his off-duty wardrobe over the years - most spectacularly at this year's Crúinniú na Cásca celebrations.

The former Taoiseach never looks totally comfortable out of the office garb, and his garbled ensemble of clunky, vaguely orthopaedic-inspired trainers, faded bootcut jeans, striped dress shirt and dinner jacket was further evidence that smart caj is not his forte. Of course, he was too busy dancing gleefully to care.


Casual Sophisticate: Gerry Adams

Full marks to Gerry Adams, whose casual style regularly trumps his workwear. Something about his beard and tousled mop of hair lend themselves to an Aran knit and cord trousers more readily than a suffocating black suit.

Here he looks every inch the casual sophisticate - successfully pulling off a tricky red and pink colour clash, with a vintage-inspired brown overcoat, sturdy boots and an unfussy canvas tote.


Streamlined: Leo Varadkar

Adams' Pilates pal has had some real fashion disasters in his past, but his campaign for Taoiseach saw him streamlining his wardrobe. Gone are the anti-aging faded t-shirts, normcore fleece and sports jersey-with-blazer.

He showcased his sharp new look at the Aviva Stadium earlier this year at the Ireland-France match, in a trim bomber jacket, deep blue jeans, striped scarf and smart trainers (Enda, take note).

However, the off-duty look may have been short-lived; on his return to the Aviva last week for the Ireland-Austria match, he eschewed the casual for a full suit - signalling to the rest of us that this is a man for whom there is no such thing as "off duty".


The Trendsetter: Jeremy Corbyn

The British Labour leader's commitment to an anti-fashion look of scruffy beard and mismatched suits with no tie has been the butt of countless jokes, but Vogue wisely observed that Jezza's style effortlessly evokes the spirit of cult label Vetements.

Creative director Demna Gvasalia has elevated the staples of 80s sports-casual - oversized suits, mid-calf socks with trainers and cagoules - to high-fashion status, but Corbyn was way ahead of the trend when he stepped out in that now-iconic baggy, corporate-grey shell suit in 2015.

If any politician could be considered an unlikely fashion force, it's Jeremy Corbyn.

Irish Independent

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