Herman Cain suits up like a boss – does it hurt his campaign?

Herman Cain’s business experience and lack of prior officeholding are considered assets by many who think we’ve had enough of the same old politicians who created this mess. But recently, especially in his handling of sexual harassment allegations, some are rethinking this point and asking if Cain’s business experience as a corporate CEO is hindering his campaign.

Some in the chattering class think that Cain’s lack of experience in big league politics is showing somewhere else: his double-breasted suits and late-80s to early-90s yellow power ties.

Writing for the Daily Beast, Robin Givhan deconstructs Cain’s tailored suits and argues that they are sending the wrong message.

No other candidate on the Republican docket has demonstrated the kind of affection Cain has shown for this menswear silhouette with its wide, peak lapels. He has favored six-on-two button suits in solid charcoal as well as those with subtle chalk stripes. To be sure, Cain’s suits are well cut and he has the stature to carry them. Still, they have always been a curious choice and they have now become ill-advised. He would do well to expunge every double-breasted suit from his wardrobe.

Cain’s garb carries with it a sort of haughty swagger…. But now, when it’s alleged that Cain wielded his executive power in a sexual and inappropriate way, that in-your-face, sartorial swagger reads in damning ways.

Cain describes himself as an unconventional candidate. His campaign organization certainly is unorthodox. But Cain wrapped himself in every sartorial cliché about authority, pecking order, and religiosity. Through his wardrobe, he positioned himself as the flamboyant boss man and the irreproachable believer.

But lately, as he dabs the sweat from his brow, the click-click-click of the cameras reveal that Cain has lost control of his message. That savvy, crafted image has turned on him. And far from defining him as an empty suit, it suggests he is one filled with both hubris and sanctimony.

Others have written that Cain’s personal dress is a refreshing change from the usual blue suit, red tie esthetic of electoral politics. Whether it’s a winning formula remains to be seen, but it does appear to be an interesting topic.

One of my fellow Peach Pundit front-pagers has suggested that I’m overly concerned with visual details that neither make nor break a campaign. But I believe that campaigning, especially at the Presidential level is a visual medium. At least he’s gotten rid of those eyglass lenses that darken outside.

Note: If you’re interested in this kind of stuff, here’s another article by the same author dealing with what she calls the “Casual Friday Campaign” mode.


  1. rense says:

    “At first, the style seemed to play to his hustings sales pitch: He was the accomplished businessman who, while preaching tough love—or disdain—to the unemployed, assured voters that he could right this country’s finances if only given the opportunity. It’s a daring approach, as even Mitt Romney, who also sells himself as having a keen businessman’s insight on job creation, has been skittish about exuding suit-wearing bravado.

    But now, when it’s alleged that Cain wielded his executive power in a sexual and inappropriate way, that in-your-face, sartorial swagger reads in damning ways.

    Cain’s love of double-breasted suits also links him to religion. He is an ordained Baptist preacher and a man with a habit of breaking out in gospel song at the slightest provocation. Ministers of a certain persuasion often seem to have a predilection for double-breasted suits, as well as three-piece ones. Some of that must surely be because of tradition and formality, but there is also an element of the hierarchal at work. Instead of choosing the most modest and humble of suits—a sack suit, perhaps—they opt for something more regal. The fancy suit distinguishes them from the mere congregants they lead. It gives them the appearance of clout, dignity, and righteous grandiosity.”

    Birth Of A Nation – type racist nonsense. Produced by a black woman (to attack a black man that she hates) no less.

  2. ckingtruth says:

    I’ve never cared for the man, but for sure I can say he’s a snazzy dresser. This really is a stretch.

  3. Cassandra says:

    Fine, by group assent, I declare this an open thread.

    “But let me call another witness from the pro-business and capitalist- friendly press. In the middle of the last decade – four years before the Great Collapse of 2008 – the editors of The Economist warned:

    “A growing body of evidence suggests that the meritocratic ideal is in trouble in America. Income inequality is growing to levels not seen since the (first) Gilded Age. But social mobility is not increasing at anything like the same pace….Everywhere you look in modern America – in the Hollywood Hills or the canyons of Wall Street, in the Nashville recording studios or the clapboard houses of Cambridge, Massachusetts – you see elites mastering the art of perpetuating themselves. America is increasingly looking like imperial Britain, with dynastic ties proliferating, social circles interlocking, mechanisms of social exclusion strengthening, and a gap widening between the people who make decisions and shape the culture and the vast majority of working stiffs.”

    Hear the editors of The Economist: “The United States is on its way to becoming a European-style class-based society.”?

    And that was well before our financiers, drunk with greed and high on the illusions and conceits of laissez faire (“leave us alone”) fundamentalism, and humored by rented politicians who do their bidding, brought America to the edge of the abyss and our middle class to its knees.”

    If Occupy #Had a Clue could articulate that message, well then, we’d have something, now wouldn’t we?

  4. Joshua Morris says:

    How many presidential candidates can only dream about being in the position that their suit choices would be criticized for lack of any other exploitable flaws?

    • Jeff says:

      More like *IN ADDITION TO EVERY* other flaw.

      The guy is NOTHING more than GOP Obama – and Obama was more qualified when he ran 4 yrs ago than Cain is now.

      How has that OJT worked out for Obama, who at least had prior experience in the legislative side of the house? What gives any thinking person any reason to think Cain will fare any better, with ZERO government experience?

  5. Doug Deal says:

    I would hope that Presidential candidates would take the position seriously enough to dress the part. I am not much of dresser myself, especially coming from the engineering then IT world, but I wouldn’t wear a t-shirt to a funeral. In the days since Reagan, perhaps one of the things missing in the office is a little professionalism.

  6. bowersville says:

    I started to leave a comment but I thought better when I considered the rest of you would think me more stupid than I am for fiddling with the “click to continue” feature.

Comments are closed.