Clothes don't make the man, but they sure can make him look good — or bad, as we've all witnessed at one time or another. And while we know that Vice President Joe Biden and VP hopeful Paul Ryan have bigger things on their respective plates right now, especially as they prepare for tonight's vice-presidential debate, we wanted to point the spotlight on style for a second. So, in honor of good old-fashioned political banter, we checked in with some of the most dapper style pros in the District — Pranav Vora of Hugh & Crye and Colin Hunter and Peyton Jenkins of Alton Lane — about what the candidates should be wearing, the last-minute tweaks they should make before a televised debate, and what each man's style says about him. Read on for their enlightening assessments. How would you dress Paul Ryan and Joe Biden for the vice-presidential debate?
Pranav Vora: "There's such an age and experience difference that I think could work in either candidate's favor. Ryan should dress like he is not just the VP candidate, but the next commander-in-chief. White point-collar shirt, red tie, single-breasted three-button suit, with slacks that are a bit more tailored than Romney's. While Biden has the opportunity to look extremely comfortable and trusted in his attire, he has to communicate that this isn't his first time doing this. Similarly, I'd go with a classic, deep navy suit, single-breasted, three-button, and a three-inch blue tie — says he's there to work for the American people, as he has for many years."
Colin Hunter and Peyton Jenkins: "Biden typically does a surprisingly good job of putting himself together — especially for an older gentleman with a distinguished, classic style. For someone in seemingly good shape, Ryan seems to wear things that are too large for his frame. He should opt for a slimmer-cut suit that will complement his stature."
For a VP, what's the secret to having great style without looking like you're trying to upstage your boss?
Vora: "I think the VP should dress at the level of a step down from the presidential candidate. Obviously, nothing that is too bright or draws the attention away from the presidential candidate. On the campaign trail, I think a dress shirt (that actually fits) with a button-down collar, no tie, and sleeves rolled up is a great look for the VP."
Hunter/Jenkins: "Whether it’s baggy suits or bright ties, any [attention] someone pays to the VP is attention taken away from the presidential candidate. Stick to simple patterns and understated accessories. Look confident, without garnering too much notoriety. To put it in context, consider a wedding party: Always look good; never upstage the groom."
Photos: Courtesy of Paul Ryan/Joe Biden
Describe President Obama's signature style in five words.
Vora: "Too many other important decisions."
Hunter/Jenkins: Streamlined. Refined. Attainable. Dapper. Crisp."
Describe Mitt Romney's signature style in five words.
Vora: "Must relate more to voters."
Hunter/Jenkins: "Clean. Precise. Classic. Distinguished. Conservative."
Do you think candidates try to broadcast their party's message through their suiting choices?
Vora: "Not necessarily. I think both sides take a pretty safe approach: not too fitted, standard lapel widths, and so on. That said, in the last presidential debate, Obama's suit did have a very British double vent versus Romney's single vent!"
Hunter/Jenkins: "This election, both candidates seem to share an affinity for a well-tailored suit. They also both take a more conservative approach. They are quite keen on their policies front and center, while their respective wardrobes remain an afterthought."
Photos: Courtesy of Barack Obama, Mitt Romney
If you could make any wardrobe tweaks to either/both candidates before they walk on stage for a debate, what would you do?
Vora: "I don't think a televised presidential debate is the time to peacock or stand out. I think both candidates are doing what they should do: Assume a uniform. That said, I'd have them take something in their hands — a memento of sorts — that reminds them to channel the most important thing they want to communicate."
Hunter/Jenkins: "The president could benefit from wearing a more modern fabric — charcoal or navy, as opposed to his standard black. He would also look sharper in a slightly narrower tie and lapel, given his lean frame. And his jacket could be taken in just a touch more to accentuate his stature. For Romney, a touch-up of the tie — sometimes, his knot/collar combinations are slightly off. And he really should wear light blue more than stark white. It will complement his salt-and-pepper hair nicely."
Photo: Courtesy of Joe Biden
On the campaign trail, what does Romney's dressed-down wardrobe say about him?
Vora: "Romney's dressed-down wardrobe is to show people that he's someone you might want to have a, uh, beer with. He's shaking hands, holding babies, and introducing himself to more voters."
Hunter/Jenkins: "He often has his sleeves rolled up — although the fit of his shirts is slightly more boxy. But that probably just means that he needs a better tailor."
And what does Obama's dressed-down wardrobe say about him?
Vora: "Obama's dressed-down wardrobe is to show people that he's still relevant. He's the candidate that you likely voted for four years ago, and he still has the best interests of the American people."
Hunter/Jenkins: "He usually goes for the basics — solid white and blue shirts — relevant, without putting too much thought into it. Even in a shirt and tie, his sleeves are almost always rolled up — a direct metaphor for hard work."
Photo: Courtesy of Paul Ryan