Glenn Reynolds and Steven Taylor both react negatively to this NYT report, recalling the Naomi Wolfe-Al Gore connection:

Seeking Women’s Votes, Clark Changes His Style
Gen. Wesley K. Clark has begun to show a softer side.

Gone are his navy blue suit, red tie and loafers, replaced by argyle sweaters, corduroys and duck boots.


“There is a gender gap,” said Geoffrey Garin, who heads the Clark campaign’s polling operation, though Mr. Garin did not give out numbers.

Some Democrats say the problem is that women are put off by the military persona.

Mr. Garin said the campaign believed that men had tuned into the race sooner, and that generally those who know General Clark better responded more positively. “Once we control for that, a lot of the gender gap disappears,” he said.

I must admit, these make-overs are rather amusing. But there’s almost certainly something to them. People clearly react to the manner of a person’s dress.

There’s a reason attorneys and physicians continue to wear dark suits and neckties in a dress-down society: people expect people in positions of great responsibility to dress “seriously.” When I was teaching college, I bucked the recent trend and wore a coat and tie (as did my then-colleague Taylor). The students definitely noticed, and were almost befuddled if we showed up in casual clothes.

It works both ways, too. In much of the rural South, there’s a bit of distrust of people who dress too well. I know people in the insurance business down there, for example, who either dress casually or do the short-sleeve dress shirt with a tie thing — very un-Queer Eye — because it conveys a more “down home” image and makes their clients more comfortable. Indeed, many of the profs at Troy State used that as an argument/excuse for not dressing up for class.

I find this amusing, however:

But even General Clark acknowledges he has a problem to overcome with women. “I think there’s an impression that the armed forces is a male-dominated, hierarchical, authoritarian institution,” he said in an interview on Thursday.

I wonder how rumors like that get started?

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Mark-NC says:

    I find the press to be amazingly inconsistent on even the basic stuff.

    How is Clark wearing a “friendly” sweater any different than Bush in blue jeans standing beside a pick-up truck?

  2. James Joyner says:

    Well, Bush would look awfully silly wearing a suit when chopping wood at the ranch!

    But, yeah, this is all part of the image-making that’s part of politics, especially at the presidential level. At least he’s not wearing an infernal red flannel shirt like Lamar!

  3. Most interesting — and, dare I say, insulting — is the idea that answer to the question of how to get more women’s votes is to dress differently. Forget about assuming that women are smart enough to assess the issues and a particular candidate’s position on same. Nosireebob, the answer to getting women’s vote must be to wear more argyle sweaters and duck boots (!?!) because everyone knows how a well-cut suit scares ’em off.

    Good grief. I’m sick of this nonsense already and it’s only January!!!

  4. James Joyner says:

    Chicks dig the duck boots.

  5. Steven says:

    I agree that image and how one dresses matters, what I find amusing is the idea of consultants re-making candidates in mid-stream. Just figure out who you are, and be you (e.g., one guesses Bush always wore cowboy boots and blue jeans at the ranch, and I have always worn a tie when I taught. I didn’t ask a consultant three weeks into the semester what the best way to dress would be 😉

  6. James Joyner says:

    Steven: Yep all around. Hell, I’ve worn dark suits, cowboy boots, corduroys, earth tones, and sweaters (although never argyle) at various points this month alone! All without paying anyone a dime for fashion advice.

  7. Paul says:

    Grouchy- I hate to burst your bubble and I am not trying to be a jerk but look at history.

    Your gender has voted for the “better looking” candidate for the last 30 years.

    Not throwing flames, just observing history. If you want to fuss about the fact you are being insulted, don’t blame the folks taking advantage of the way your gender votes, blame the womenfolk for voting that way.