JANET STREET-PORTER: Why DON'T British men know how to dress? (2024)

Maybe it's shallow and unfair to judge someone by the cut of their trousers (Rishi's ankle swingers) or their spooky dark shirts - but if you're battling for the top job in British politics, what you've chosen to wear on the campaign trail really matters.

Clothing reveals so much about personality and can reinforce your brand, but our leaders are stuck in the stone age.

Britain is the style capital of the world, no doubt about that. So why do our leaders look like a couple of middle management nobodies?

Rishi and Keir know that the right policies are important but haven't realised that every aspect of their personal style must be on-message if they not to come across as know-all city types spouting stuff they don't act out in real life.

Touring factories and grim warehouses, pretending to drink a pint and play bowls - campaigning in 2024 is all about photo opportunities.

So why don't they dress more intelligently for the parts they must play to get elected?

Mr Sunak – no stranger to expensive items – was spotted with a £750 backpack from US brand Tumi while visiting one of the poorest areas of the country

Sir Keir Starmer was spotted wearing a £500 coat on the campaign trail over the weekend on the same day he told voters he 'knows what it feels like to struggle with bills' (pictured: Sir Keir wearing the coat in Blackpool in May)

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer have their political differences, but they both share a love for luxury designer garments

They need to be in touch with voters, empathetic and understanding. But do they look like blokes you'd trust with your life and your savings?

Read More Inside the wardrobe of Rich Rishi and Slick Starmer as they sport designer gear costing hundreds

Sunak's background is banking, and he's nuts about technology.

A non-drinker who fasts one day a week and regularly works out on a costly Peloton bike, he's slender and fit - unlike 90% of the population, who hate exercise, eat crap and are overweight.

On the campaign trail he made a strategic mistake, telling voters he understood their pain and financial worries after turning up to catch the overnight train to Cornwall carrying a Tumi rucksack costing more (£750) than most families spend on food in a month.

His trim sportswear and cashmere sweaters aren't stuff you'd pick up in a supermarket aisle either.

Most British men in the public eye think clothes are unimportant, that fashion is for gay men or shallow dabblers.

They are so wrong.

Clothes frame your image, distract from your shortcomings.

Donald Trump only ever wears the same tie, the same horrible bright blue suit- it's his unmistakable brand, making him instantly recognisable.

Ditto Nigel Farage and his stockbroker attire. Both men dress extremely carefully to stay on-brand.

A certain type of Tory actually thinks that looking smart is a sign of weakness. In the early days of the pandemic, scruffiness was definitely calculated as a sign the top team were too busy thinking about important things to wear smart suits.

Rishi Sunak pictured yesterday stepping off a night train wearing a light grey hoodie, tracksuit bottoms, £750 backpack, and trainers after a day campaigning

Rishi Sunak reacts after bowling during a Conservative general election campaign event at the Market Bosworth Bowls Club in Market Bosworth, England, Tuesday, May 28

Boris regularly looked as if he'd put on yesterday's socks and shirt and forgotten to knot his tie. Dominic Cummings resembled a helper at the local food bank.

Out for a run, Boris still appears as Babar the elephant or Moomin in surfer dude swimmers. As PM, David Cameron was lucky to have an extremely astute wife (Sam) who knew about fashion, and made sure he wore the same dreary blue polo shirt and shorts at every holiday press call.

No £300 bathers for this old Etonian who was regularly photographed in drab dad-wear, to reinforce his 'big society' credentials.

As for the Labour leader, Keir Starmer can't decide whether to pitch up as a factory manager or an accountant.

Those dark shirts - who wears them in 2024? They remind me of 1980's TV cop shows.

The £500 zip up bomber jacket sums up a man not in control of his wardrobe, standing at the crossroads of style, terrified that the wrong choice of socks or a controversial cardigan could cost him a precious marginal seat. Unfortunately, the Labour leader will never be style icon. He lacks body confidence, and in spite of thrashing about on a football pitch at regular intervals, he seems to have put on weight.

Former Minister Peter Mandelson wasn't bitchy pointing that out, because he knows that facing the unforgiving glare of the campaign press corps, Starmer is on display like a star on the red carpet.

Elections are no different to movie premieres and a blobby body will be judged by people whose own BMI is off the scale.

Even the National Treasure leading our football team is no better at fashion. England manager Gareth Southgate's wardrobe has been immortalised on stage at the National theatre, and his horrible £65 'lucky' waistcoat from Marks and Spencer worn throughout the 2018 World Cup became a much-loved fashion statement. In spite of the fact that prior to being adopted by Gareth (so he looked 'smart' in his words) the only people who wore a waistcoat in real life were snooker players and the manager of your local car showroom.

Sadly, with the Euros looming Gareth has gone for a rebrand, and like Starmer and Sunak, he's fallen at the first hurdle, choosing a cardigan for a photo session with GQ magazine.

Tom Holland has had a total rebrand for his London appearances, adopting the 'Hackney' look of baggy jeans, designer hoodies and cross body bags

Sadly, with the Euros looming Gareth has gone for a rebrand, and like Starmer and Sunak, he's fallen at the first hurdle, choosing a cardigan for a photo session with GQ magazine

According to the England manager, he wants to appear 'more approachable' to younger players. NO, NO, NO. Gareth, darling, you look like a big beige blob in your carefully curated (by the stylist, obvs not Gareth who is High Street Man through and through) £3,325 cardigan by luxury Italian brand Loro Piana.

Not even English clobber!

Managers aren't there to be cuddly, but ruthless. They have to make tough decisions, drop people and pick others. Cardigans are worn by therapists or vain people who spend all day obsessing about their appearance and body 'art' like David Beckham.

The men who can carry off a cardigan without looking like a badly packed parcel are 100% tough - Steve McQueen and Daniel Craig. I once saw Bond star Sean Connery at dinner in the Ivy - and he was wearing a cardigan when every man in the room was in a jacket!

If you've made your living shooting baddies and driving an Aston Martin you can get away with a cardigan, sadly Gareth Southgate's attempt at a style rebrand is no more than a cry for help.

As for British actor Tom Holland, currently appearing in the West End in Romeo and Juliet - the boyish Spiderman star has been a red carpet fixture for years in horrible skin tight shiny suits emphasising his slender build.

Now he's had a total rebrand for his London appearances, adopting the 'Hackney' look of baggy jeans, designer hoodies and cross body bags.

Holland's new look has been mocked, with critics claiming he looks like an 'Essex scaffolder', but as a Hackney resident (with James Norton just one street away from my front door), I know that anyone wearing a Celine or YSL hoodie is very likely to be an actual scaffolder or builder- with property conversions costing millions in this particular postcode.

True Hackney men have adopted Quiet Gorpcore. Clothing that looks as if you are about to scale Everest or trek through the Andes.

Windcheaters that cost £1,000 with water proof Arc'teryx trousers worn to brave the summer rain as they walk designer dogs and wait for the sledge team to pitch up.

Britain's fashion talent is legendary, and our style draws millions of tourists to gawp at the free show on our city streets. As a country, we are chic and inspire designers all over the world.

Sadly, our leaders haven't a clue how to dress. Poor Gareth Southgate, bless him for trying though.

JANET STREET-PORTER: Why DON'T British men know how to dress? (2024)
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