Making A Statement
By Brian Hunt
Before I begin, I would like to make a couple of things perfectly clear.
I am not an expert in, enthusiast of, consumer of, or hold any significant interest in high fashion and fashionable trends.
Secondly, I would like the reader to know that the following is not a prerequisite for being a "genuine" member or follower of the Citizens Party.
The sole purpose of this article is to articulate an idea that would, in a political sense, make a somewhat significant statement.
What one wears can symbolize status and—if part of a larger group that adheres to that same standard of fashion, ideas, politics, religion, etc. and which holds and wields significant power—the status quo. Throughout history, strict formal wear has defined the norm for being recognized as a politician, or any position of authority and power. By assuming such formal wear, one attempts to exude a form of respectability, authority and power believed to be inherent with such strict formal apparel. It is the norm in areas such as politics, business, entertainment, and banking/finance.
And yet, there are pitfalls to such formality. For instance, just because one wears a suit and tie doesn't mean they automatically gain respectability. Respect is earned through what one says and, more importantly, what one does. For instance, if what one does has a utilitarian intent, then respect (and perhaps admiration) becomes a reality. Otherwise, what you say and do can seem either self-serving or serving the interests of a few. What one wears doesn't affect how practical a policy is or isn't. However, it can be identified with what you do and say and what and who you represent.
Today, one can hardly distinguish, visually, between the politician and the CEO, banker, big businessman, and other professions considered "elite". Additionally, one can hardly distinguish between the politician's policies and the interests of the CEO, banker, big businessman, etc. It seems that a great majority of our politicians are becoming more and more disengaged with the people they represent. In order to advance and protect their career, they kow-tow to the other aforementioned interests. Furthermore, as a result of globalization, such elitist Westernized formal wear can be seen on political officials, economic powerbrokers, and other prominent individuals in many countries with different cultures, histories, and languages.
So, what would be an appropriate symbolic alternative to this rigid formality?
Obviously, the answer would seem to be making professional wear more casual. Of course, such a change of appearance won’t change the nature of the work, but it will resonate a strong symbolic message that signals a break from the norm.
Perhaps the most obvious example of apparel playing a significant role in defining a movement and defying the norm are the Sans-Culottes of the French Revolution. For those who are not familiar with them, the Sans-Culottes were a movement of middle class and working-class revolutionaries. During the French Revolution they advocated a variety of positions, some of them including...
Despite such noble advocacy, the some Sans-Culottes did participate in incidents of revolutionary violence such as the September Massacre. Additionally, it is argued that some of their other goals are an early reflection of socialist/communist ideas. The Citizens Party, rightfully, does not believe in the need for violence to further its goals, and is not a political organization that adheres to or promotes the tenets of socialism or communism.
However, the Sans-Culottes are particularly relevant to the message of this article because of their symbolic apparel. To separate and distinguish themselves from the aristocracy and the upper middle-class, they wore the long trousers of the working-class instead of aristocratic knee-britches. They believed that since all people and classes were essentially equal, society should not be segregated by fashion.
This concept can easily carry over into the main idea of the article: symbolic representation. Politicians, instead of conforming to the rigid norms and appearance of the power elite, can emulate the appearance of the middle-class and working-class Americans they represent. By doing so, the gulf that separates politicians and their constituents can be symbolically closed. That way, ordinary people will feel that they have more of a connection to their government by how their representatives emulate themselves.
But simply appearing to be more in touch with the people is far from enough. It is the positive actions of the individuals wearing the clothes that will ultimately make the symbolic appearance more effective. For in order for this symbolism to work, a certain type of politician has to come to the forefront.
In a representative democracy, politicians are supposed to be the people's representatives to power, advocating and fighting for their interests above all else. The ideal politician should be generally selfless, humane, patriotic, utilitarian, flexible but principled, and most importantly - actively engaged. Furthermore, the ideal politician of the people should reject and shun any selfish or corrupting interest that may want to influence him/her against the will of the people he/she represents. They should also be advocates of progress, vitality, and prudence - all for the benefit of both America and the world.
This is an appeal to all of those in politics or wanting to enter politics. If you truly believe yourself to be an agent for the American people, a representative of middle-class and working-class Americans, a champion for progress, a humane and sensible individual, and a defender of American ideals, I encourage you to take the advice I have given. Eschew the rigid ties and the corporate suits, and show yourselves to be physically and symbolically representative of those you represent.
THE OLD LOOK:
THE NEW LOOK: