I was interviewed on RTE Radio 1 in Ireland for the Today With Claire Byrne show this week, and asked about my views on the wardrobe choices of political leaders.
This has become a topic of particular interest of late given Velodymer Zelensky’s wardrobe choices of khaki sweatshirts, t-shirts and combat trousers. These being in stark contrast to the more formal wardrobe choices most other heads of state typically adopt and indeed his style of dress prior to the start of the Ukrainian war.
You can listen to the interview here from 1 hour 43 minutes onwards – Radio RTE 1 Interview
As I said during the interview, I believe that Zelensky has purposefully chosen his outfits to convey key messages that he wants to put across; that he’s ‘one of the people’, that he is the leader of a country at war, (suits are not required and the colour, khaki, has long been associated with the military), and that he wants to champion the Ukrainian cause by looking completely different to his adversary Vladamir Putin (who chooses very formal attire).
In other words, his clothes very much form part of his personal brand – the way he wants to be perceived. He is using them, just as much as the words he chooses to speak, to make us sit up and listen.
The fact that he adopts a consistent appearance, having worn much the same thing over the last 14+months since his country has been at war, is also intentional in my opinion. He wants us to immediately see him and know exactly who he is. The clothes, once a talking point in themselves, are now his expected form of dress so we firstly quickly identify him and secondly, we listen carefully to what he has to say. He wears this same casual attire whether he is addressing his people or meeting other political leaders or dignitaries around the world.
Restricting his clothing choices in this way no doubt also saves him valuable time, enabling him to focus on the far more important matters at hand for his people and country.
Other notable political leaders that have adopted this approach include Hilary Clinton and Angela Merkel, both of whom are known for their almost uniform-like trouser suit choices, for example.
All of these leaders, recognise the power of their clothes and the potential impact they can have on their reputation. I urge you to do likewise and think about what your clothes are saying too.