U.S. campaign style at frontline of winning votes

Thu Feb 9, 2012 2:11pm EST
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The policies of U.S. President Barack Obama and his potential Republican rivals differ, but when it comes to campaign trail fashion they could not be more alike with their style at the frontline of winning votes.

Whether it's rolled-up sleeves, or a checked shirt with no tie, candidates vying for the White House in November balance their fashion to appeal to average Americans and yet still look like a world leader, said experts at New York Fashion Week.

With the U.S. economy slow to recover from recession and the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement putting economic inequality on the national agenda, experts said the Republican candidates were focusing more on casual styles.

But don't expect to see them in shorts and t-shirts, they still need to retain the look of a leader, experts say, with some criticizing former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum's staple sweater vests as maybe a little too informal.

"The Republican candidates have dressed down more," said Tracy Taylor, U.S. editor of luxury online retailer Net-A-Porter. "It could be that they are trying to counterbalance Obama and how buttoned up and chic and refined he always looks."

"It's also a response to Occupy Wall Street," she said.

Obama has won more than just praise for his fashion from designers and editors. U.S. Vogue editor Anna Wintour hosted a reception on Tuesday to launch "Runway to Win," a collection from designers including Marc Jacobs, Tory Burch and Diane von Furstenberg, being sold online to raise money for his campaign.

But Obama didn't always have such a polished look, said Robert Burke of luxury consultants Robert Burke Associates. "President Obama used to get razzed about having oversized suits that were two sizes too big," Burke said.   Continued...

<p>President Obama with first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Malia (R) and Sasha walk to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, January 29, 2012. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas</p>