In a year that’s seen public opinion on Donald Trump hotly divided between “savior of America” and “dangerous demagogue,” there are few aspects of the man that haven’t inspired debate, including his style. Trump’s uniform of loose-fitting, frequently unbuttoned suits and overly long ties has drawn plenty of criticism from the style world. On Thursday, Twitter blew up about the president-elect’s latest fashion gaffe.
Donald Trump, the future president of the United States, scotch tapes the back of his tie to the front. pic.twitter.com/hWnuziNX8S
— Adam Smith (@AdamSmith_usa) December 2, 2016
Yes, the soon-to-be leader of the free world, who presumably has a team of stylists, personal shoppers, and experts available to him at all times (also, lots of money), is hitting up OfficeMax for his fashion accessories. While no one’s claiming it’s the most egregious of Trump’s missteps, Twitter is joking that #TapeGate is a sure sign that our country’s in trouble.
— GQ Magazine (@GQMagazine) December 2, 2016
For the record, there are a variety of solutions to the problem of a wayward tie tail: a tie pin, tack, or bar is an elegant choice. Many ties have loops built into the back to tuck in the tail. In fact, one Twitter user went deep and saw that Trump’s tie does, in fact, have this … but Trump wears his ties so long that the tail appears to be too short to take advantage of it.
as you can see, there is, in fact, a little loop for him to put the skinny part through, it’s just that the skinny part doesn’t reach pic.twitter.com/bD7uZY2uGp
— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) December 2, 2016
In a pinch, you can even tuck the tie tail into your shirt or use a safety pin inconspicuously. Many tie accessories come emblazoned with an American flag. Trump, you love those things so much you want to revoke the citizenship of anyone who burns one, remember?
Donald Trump also appears to be revolutionizing menswear https://t.co/17tqVgoMkL
— New York Magazine (@NYMag) December 2, 2016
As with most things Trump, TapeGate is a Rorschach test. This Tweet by New York Magazine is almost certainly tongue-in-cheek, but we wouldn’t be surprised if certain Trump supporters take his bootleg approach to tie control as yet another sign of his rule-flouting, anti-establishment, salt-of-the-earthiness. Scotch taping your tie — it’s the new draining the swamp.
Overall, though, it’s Trump’s habit of wearing those too-long ties that has drawn the most ire. The rule of thumb is that a man’s tie should just graze the top of his belt buckle — a rule Trump regularly violates. Business Insider called Trump’s ties “one of the most offensive mistakes” possible in men’s style. Comedian Patton Oswalt called the look “hungover limo driver” on Twitter after the second presidential debate (ouch). GQ recently published what, at first glance, seemed to be a positive article on the “style lesson you can learn from Trump,” but it was a feint. The article used Trump’s ties as an example of how not to dress.
The prevailing narrative casts Trump as a man who’s simply clueless about clothing, violating basic Menswear 101 rules out of ignorance. But others see a strategy behind the president-elect’s style mistakes.
“Let’s make it clear — when it comes to a presidential race, there are no style mistakes,” says David Yi, editor of the men’s beauty and grooming site Very Good Light. “Everything is planned out methodically, [from] lapel size to tie color. So when it comes to Trump’s suits, of course the ill fit and copious jacket sizes are intentional. He wants to look larger than life.”
Another interesting theory has it that Trump’s, shall we say, “nontraditional” proportions are an attempt to distract from his body size. (As we know from his appearance on Dr. Oz, Trump’s BMI of 29.5 puts him firmly in the “overweight” category, and just shy of “obese.”) David Yi points out that Trump frequently wears slimming black, and that his oversize suits “make his shoulders look brawnier while hiding his overweight body.”
A vigorous discussion on Quora evinces a similar theory — that the “immense padding and overcut shoulders” of Trump’s jackets are done on purpose to balance out Trump’s sizable belly, thus giving him the illusion of the V-shaped torso we associate with powerful men. In this context, Trump’s ties are cut longer to balance his jacket’s oversize proportions.
But if Trump’s style mistakes are an attempt to fool the eye, not everyone agrees that it’s working. “Trump’s large, boxy suits and oversize ties aren’t flattering to his body type and actually make him look larger,” says men’s style expert Matthew Simko. But Simko also believes there’s a method to his style madness:
“To Trump’s pool of voters, a slick-looking guy in a crisp, well-tailored suit would actually be a turnoff,” Simko says. “Trump supporters don’t want the man in charge to be crisp or cosmopolitan.”
Indeed, Trump’s style stands in stark contrast to President Obama, who is probably the best-dressed man to hold the executive office since John Kennedy. Obama’s slim body type and well-tailored, tasteful navy suits project a sleek urbanity that’s catnip to some. But to the millions of middle Americans who just voted Trump in, well, they’re more likely to relate to the loud guy in the off-the-rack-looking suit — even if said suit costs $6,000 and is custom-made by Brioni.
After all, Trump is a man who rode a series of highly controversial statements straight into our country’s highest office. In the wake of the election that no one in the mainstream media saw coming, the country has had to reckon with the likelihood that Trump was elected precisely because of the offensive statements that earned him sneers from the mainstream media — not in spite of them.
Similarly, Trump’s style may be the product of strategic rule-flouting. Every time a menswear bible like GQ blasts Trump’s style, it can only help solidify his role as outsider and further endear him to his “regular-guy” base who could care less about good taste, in fashion or otherwise. Trump supporters “want a guy that looks like them, and despite Trump being a billionaire, that’s exactly what they got,” Simko says.
And as Yi points out, Trump’s suits are made by Brioni, “the most classic brand of all — they’d know better than to create a suit that’s anything less than impeccably tailored. But as we know, Trump gets what he wants, and what he wants is a look that can continue to fool the world.” For the man who’s now the face of America’s right-wing movement, populism looks like a billionaire in an ill-fitting Brioni suit.