June 27, 2019

The Meaning of Trump's Tux

“In the end, it was the clothes. Donald Trump’s tour of England was full of standard Trumpisms—insulting the mayor of London, calling Britain’s nhs hospitals a “sea of blood” because of a spate of knife attacks, using the commemoration of D-Day as a political prop—but it was the clothes that finally revealed him. Standing next to the royal family, Trump, in his ill-fitting white bow tie and tails, was a living, breathing absurdity, a symbol of the darkly nonsensical and badly put together condition of the world order in the early twenty-first century. First, he appeared absurdly comic, then terrifyingly absurd. What does it mean that a man who does not know how to dress is the most powerful man in the world?

Of course, this is nothing new, in a way. We’ve gotten used to this kind of sartorial awkwardness from Trump—the Scotch-taped ties, the mismatched suit, the overlong khakis. But there was something about sitting next to Prince Charles that made Trump’s bad dress sense even more glaring. For one thing, Prince Charles, like Trump, is a ridiculous old man. The idea that his face is likely going to be on the money of countries all over the world after the Queen dies is one of the strongest arguments in favour of republicanism that exists. And yet he dresses so well. I mean, the British Empire is defunct but Savile Row is still Savile Row. On every occasion, the prince was perfectly articulated, sumptuous but restrained, the definition of appropriate. You wouldn’t notice what he was wearing until you realized how gorgeous it was. In his white-tie outfit, Trump looked like Cogsworth from Beauty and the Beast, a servant who had just regained human form after being a clock.

Trump is more than a poor dresser. His clothes are the sign of profound character failure. His total misunderstanding of the most basic elements of formal dress, a misunderstanding he shares with his adult sons but not his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who dresses well, is flagrant evidence of the deep sources of his toxic masculinity. No one seems to have loved him enough as a boy to instruct him on key elements of self-presentation. Worse, he will not listen to experts. People laughed when the president wore a blue jacket and black pants, but think about what the mismatch meant: Did no one close to him tell him? Maybe no one could tell him. His staff is either profoundly unobservant or unwilling to confront him even with such a small and indisputable detail. What else can’t they tell him?”

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