'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Sunday, 14 October 2012

What do Obama, Merkel and Nick Clegg all have in common? Choice of Clothes. No really...

In his amazing piece in Vanity Fair, reporter Michael Lewis (who was allowed to follow Obama everywhere close up for 6 months) revealed why Obama only wears Grey or Blue Suits. It's a great insight into the minds of politicians...

This time he covered a lot more ground and was willing to talk about the mundane details of presidential existence. “You have to exercise,” he said, for instance. “Or at some point you’ll just break down.” You also need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.” He mentioned research that shows the simple act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.” The self-discipline he believes is required to do the job well comes at a high price. “You can’t wander around,” he said. “It’s much harder to be surprised. You don’t have those moments of serendipity. You don’t bump into a friend in a restaurant you haven’t seen in years. The loss of anonymity and the loss of surprise is an unnatural state. You adapt to it, but you don’t get used to it—at least I don’t.”

When I first read this I was fascinated that anyone had bothered to pare down their decision making in this way. But since then I've observed this is apparently a common habit amongst senior politicians. Take a look at this picture from The Guardian - of all Angela Merkels outfits in the last 12 months...

Yes, lots of colours - but every single jacket she wears in public is effectively the same style. Which I think is rather amazing.

Then think of Nick (or Cameron or Miliband).

Since they became leader of their respective party, every time they wear a tie it is a plain block colour. Often their party colour or purple (seen as neutral) but always a block, never a pattern. Here's a random sample.

To be fair there is one notable exception - Miliband wears this tie A LOT.

But generally speaking their choice of clothes is about NOT choosing what to wear - and little else.

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