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Paul Ryan’s fashion sense gets a presidential drubbing

Jordana Divon
Shine On
August 17, 2012

Politicians take an enormous public drubbing any time they step into a high-profile role. It's something they have to be ready to tackle with thick-skinned resolve and not let the endless barrage of mockery and criticism distract them from their election goals.

The latest figure to land in the media crosshairs is Paul Ryan, the newly minted running mate to U.S. Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

And while Ryan has been crucified for his political past, his literary preferences (and even received the fake Twitter account treatment), it's unlikely he anticipated such a violent reaction to his personal style.

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Dozens of fashion publications (not to mention armchair stylists) have torn his wardrobe to shreds — from his unusual hairline to his ill-fitting suits. NY Magazine has a rundown of the most prominent sharp-tongued critiques.

Fashion bible Women's Wear Daily takes Ryan to task for covering up what could likely be an impressive physique.

"His jacket is big and ill-fitting and makes him look older than 42. He should buy something more contemporary instead of trying to please Joe the Plumber," the takedown begins.

"The incredibly boxy silhouette does nothing to enhance his potentially powerful physique. It makes him look weak and overweight ... Believe it or not, he's wearing square-toe dress shoes, one of the most grievous mistakes a man can make."

The Sartorialist's Bruce Pask agrees with WWD's assessment, although he puts it a little more gently in the New York Times:

"Like many American suit wearers, I think he suffers from the misconception that the size a guy wears directly correlates with his masculinity," he says. "In their minds, being a 42 is more manly than a 40. And yet what actually happens when a guy wears something too big is the obvious: he looks smaller, dwarfed by shoulders that are too big, a shirt collar that is too roomy, lapels that are too wide."

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In the same article, fashion journalist Cathy Horyn makes a pithier point, writing, "So much for his lethal six-pack. He was swimming in his coat, like Tom Hanks in Big when he becomes a kid again." Ouch.

Esquire magazine even calls the man "smug" for failing to wear a tie.

And we haven't even gotten to the endless cracks about Ryan's unusual widow's peak hairline — something the man clearly didn't choose, but a feature that has earned him unfortunate comparisons to one young Mr. Eddie Munster.

It may be considered shallow to focus on a politician's wardrobe, but in a climate where politics often doubles as entertainment and cable news channels have a 24/7 slot to fill, it's no surprise that image has come to the forefront.

Like Sarah Palin before him, one can imagine that Ryan's new handlers will slap a hefty cheque in his hands and send him off to get a little wardrobe consultation. After all, they're trying to win the biggest political race on the planet.

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Ryan's fashion woes call to mind some of the criticism we've given our own politicians here in Canada.

The Hill Times, in conjunction with Angus Reid Public Opinion, included a category on "Best and Worst Dressed" in their annual Political Savvy Survey. Among the most notorious fashion offenders: NDP MP Charlie Angus for his ill-fitting suits, Stephen Harper for his creative fashion choices, MP Lisa Raitt and Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

The Prime Minister's noteworthy hair also manages to steal the spotlight. Dose magazine ran an entire photo feature on Harper's perfectly coiffed silver locks by placing it on the heads of today's hot young stars.

And any time your facial hair manages to pull national headlines, as it did in Maclean's, you know you've got something extraordinary going on.

Do you think fashion belongs in the political arena, or are we distracting ourselves from the important issues?

Watch the video below about how to take a look from day-to-night.

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