The Impact of Fashion on Political Careers: From James Monroe to Ron DeSantis

The Impact of Fashion on Political Careers: From James Monroe to Ron DeSantis

How a politician’s appearance can shape their chances of success

In the age of social media, a candidate’s fashion choices can make or break their chances of winning or keeping their office. From Barack Obama’s tan suit controversy to Hillary Clinton’s iconic pantsuits, politicians’ fashion statements have a lasting impact. But it’s not just about suits and shirts; even shoes play a role. Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor and potential presidential candidate, has allegedly been using custom shoes to boost his height and compete with taller opponents like Donald Trump. This article explores the historical and contemporary examples of how fashion has influenced the careers of presidents and presidential candidates.

James Monroe: Retro or old-fashioned?

James Monroe, the last president from the Founding Fathers, made a statement with his fashion choices. Despite the trend of wearing full trousers, Monroe often appeared in breeches, a style considered outdated at the time. By aligning himself with the history he was a part of, Monroe aimed to symbolize his honest politics and the desire for national unity during the Era of Good Feelings.

Horace Greeley: Neckbeard of doom

Horace Greeley, the editor of the New-York Tribune, was known for his eccentric appearance. With a potbelly, a fluffy white neckbeard, and ill-fitting trousers, Greeley became a target for caricaturists. When he ran for president in 1871, his unconventional fashion choices became the subject of ridicule. Thomas Nash, a cartoonist for Harper Weekly, portrayed Greeley as a crank and a fool, ultimately contributing to his defeat against Ulysses S. Grant.

Chester A. Arthur: Shopping addict

Chester A. Arthur, the 21st president, was known for his fashion-forward style. As his political career advanced, Arthur became increasingly fashionable and developed a reputation as a dandy. He loved silk scarves, big hats, and had an extensive wardrobe. Despite concerns that his focus on fashion would overshadow his presidency, Arthur achieved notable accomplishments, including establishing the Civil Service Commission and passing the first Federal immigration law.

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Jimmy Carter: Cardigan crisis

Jimmy Carter’s fashion choices, particularly his affinity for cardigans, became a symbol of his folksy persona. During a fireside chat broadcast on national TV, Carter wore a cardigan to emphasize his message of energy conservation. However, when Carter ran for re-election amidst the Iran hostage crisis and increasing inflation, his casual image could not compete with Ronald Reagan’s Hollywood-perfect suits and ties, ultimately leading to his defeat.

Ron DeSantis: Height and image

Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, understands the importance of fashion in a politician’s image. Allegedly using custom shoes to boost his height, DeSantis aims to compete with taller opponents like Donald Trump on the campaign trail. While Trump has mocked DeSantis for this alleged sartorial gambit, only time will tell if it will have the desired effect or backfire.


Fashion has always played a role in shaping the careers of politicians. From James Monroe’s deliberate choice to align himself with the past to Ron DeSantis’s attempts to boost his height, fashion can make a lasting impression on voters. While some politicians have successfully used fashion to their advantage, others have faced ridicule or struggled to compete with more conventionally stylish opponents. As the age of social media continues to influence political campaigns, it becomes increasingly important for politicians to carefully consider their fashion choices and the messages they convey.