Personal Branding, Personal Presence

The Politics of Your Personal Style

I had never considered the politics of your personal style until I was in Europe over the past couple of weeks.  Just a private citizen, I found myself regularly playing the role of ambassador of good style, of good graces – and even of good humor.  The politics of your personal style impacts. how you show up in the world.  The choices you make today, such as the brands you wear, and by the way you dress, can offer political implications.  The political climate of today is having a resounding impact on personal style.

President-elect Donald Trump arrives at Indianapolis International Airport for a visit to the Carrier factory, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Indianapolis, Ind. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The French notoriously are weary of “Ugly Americans” who dress slovenly and misbehave with rude abandon.  If I happen to be in proximity of any Americans displaying such vulgar behavior, I sort of want to slither out of that space.  I’d move into another room of a museum, or to la toilette at a restaurant.  I’d even hop out to the street, rather than being in a boutique.

In the last two weeks in Paris, Zürich, and in Venice, I’ve done it all.  It even happened at the Swiss customs office at the Zürich airport.

International travelers filled the small customs room.  Like me, they were there to apply for a tax refund on purchases made in the notoriously neutral country.  Then, it was finally my turn. I approached the counter and brandished my passport.  The customs officer astutely questioned and stated, “So you are from the United States.”  In a humorous and contrite moment, I spoke in my trademark ironic vocal tone, and apologized for being American.  I said this in a moment where I seriously lacked pride in my country’s politics.  But, it was also very funny as everyone in the room, including the customs officer busted out in sheer delight.  In that moment, I was an American diplomat in Switzerland.

All of this is in the forefront of my mind while staying in touch with the news back home.  And believe it or not, some of the political news from back home is all about the politics of your personal style.  Brands are now at political war.  Nordstrom drops Ivanka Trump’s line of apparel and accessories from its roster of brands due to reportedly sagging sales.  Daddy dearest, the President of the United States, takes to Twitter and tells America that a great American retailer has dissed his daughter.  People are taking sides.  Whatever side you take, your choice sums up the politics of your personal style.

The Tweeter-in-Chief tweeted about one of the family heirs of L.L. Bean.  He was praising her support.  The family, and their business, are notoriously nonpolitical.  Such an “outing” brought an onslaught of negative attention to the brand.  Under Armour CEO, Kevin Plank, praised President Trump’s business policies as a clarification for an earlier statement.  He first said that Trump is a “real asset” for the country.  The fallout on social media was tantamount to Plank and his company having walked the plank. This explains why he had to walk back his initial comment.

Talk about the possibility of wearing your politics on your sleeve…

In the president’s case, it’s not just about the politics of his personal style through his tweets.  It’s also very much about the way he ties his ties.  A pointed New York Times op-ed, penned by a Stanford law professor, posits that the president’s crassly knotted cravats are symbolic of the man himself.  The long and short of it is that the man has got no class, even resorting to the use of Scotch tape to adhere the extra short end to the extra-long end.  In fact, footage of this sticky situation has surfaced from Inauguration Day!  The man who brandishes his name on ties, it turns out, can’t properly tie his own.

It’s fool hearty to think that the world isn’t watching every move and every knot this president makes. He sees himself as a political juggernaut.  But, his slovenly appearance lacks proper decorum and visually lacks in presidential diplomacy.

On a less grand scale than his, people certainly pay attention to your sartorial statements.  It may be less about the politics of your personal style in your own life.  But, if we can glean at least one positive takeaway from this fact, it’s that people will notice anything about anyone.  Why be slovenly?  Why be an “Ugly American,” if you don’t have to be.  You don’t need Trump’s purported billions to properly put yourself out there.  I do it every day and so can you.

The politics of your personal style are all about the choices you make.  When your style shows that you can reach across the aisle, you will be treated with respect and dignity.  But, if you can’t treat yourself with respect and dignity first, you can’t expect it from others.

Joseph Rosenfeld helps successful Silicon Valley technology entrepreneurs and executives discover their personal brands and design their personal styles.  Get Joseph’s free report that helps you know “6 Secrets to Success in Silicon Valley.” Get details about Joseph’s proven program that transforms your life through personal brand and style development.

My role, as a personal brand and style strategist, is that of a storyteller. I learn about a person’s personality and strengths, translate that into an appropriate personal style aesthetic, and help each client to visually and non-verbally tell her or his story with ease and authenticity.