Politics undressed: The meaning behind Rishi Sunak’s quarter zip jumper

Politics undressed: The meaning behind Rishi Sunak’s quarter zip jumper

One thing perhaps as polarising as fashion is politics. When the two are combined, dress codes go out the window, and politicians begin to tread very carefully with their attires (unless, of course, they’re making a statement by treading in Adidas Sambas).

One thing is certain: clothing depends entirely on the setting. Smart casual can help a politician appear more approachable and laid-back, whilst a sharp suit conveys a sense of stern professionalism and capability. For this election, the main two candidates’ casual clothing has been truly revealing of both their personalities and policies.

Both Sunak and Starmer have been spotted wearing Adidas Sambas – a shoe hailed as the style of the summer (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Labour leader, Keir Starmer, and Conservative Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, have chosen their favourite pieces to re-wear more than ten times throughout their campaigns: a quarter zip jumper and a plain navy shirt. Interestingly, both of the items are blue: colours of the Conservative party.

For Sunak and Starmer, the style stakes have never been higher than during the course of this campaign, with both candidates sharing similar fashion tastes. Here are the hidden meanings behind their clothing choices and what it means for the UK’s General Election.

Reliable repeats

Outfit repeating is an age old tactic employed by celebs and royals alike. Whether to appear reliable or sustainably conscious, recycling an outfit is never a poor decision.

For Sunak and Starmer however, their outfit repeats may be laying on the message a bit thick. Sunak has been pictured sporting a blue Charles Tyrwhitt quarter zip over 12 times, whilst Starmer has donned a dark navy shirt 10 times in different variations.

Rishi Sunak has worn his aegean blue three quarter zip on twelve different appearances (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Keir Starmer frequently sports monochrome with an all navy suit on his visits (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

According to Dr Tim Ellis-Dale, senior lecturer in history and political masculinity at Teeside University, “Seeing the same outfit again and again will convey consistency. Consistency will breed a sense of familiarity, and that in turn can lead to trust.”

Perhaps the politicians are attempting to drive this message home a little too hard, rendering the point mute. Sunak’s laid-back merino knit conveys a homey sense of warmth and safety. With 14 years of straight Conservative government, it seems Sunak is attempting to evoke a comforting consistency in his smart jumper – as the old adage goes – nobody likes change.

Rishi Sunak often pairs his blue knit with traditional taupe chinos and brown brogues (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Interestingly, both often opt for blue. It’s an unsurprising choice for Tory Sunak, but does bode the question as to why Starmer sports it so often. Anna Curtis, colour stylist and founder of The Colour Code, notes: “Blue is the colour of trust, integrity, knowledge and leadership.

“It’s the most universally loved of all the colours and there’s a reason why so many uniforms of those in service and care are blue. The lighter the shade is more relaxing, so a great colour to wear during tense exchanges and amongst hostile constituents.”

Whilst Sunak often opts for this lighter shade, Starmer goes for a deeper shade almost more than Sunak. His decision to repeatedly wear a dark navy shirt is deliberately non-corporate – unlike a classic crisp white – at a time when the public are growing exasperated by corporate leaders.

Starmer opts for darker blues and keeps his suits modern and casual without a tie (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Starmer’s bold choice is undoubtedly a calculated one to distinguish between his party and the current Tory government. Ex-Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, always managed to look slightly scruffy in his bright white shirts, which were sometimes untucked and crumpled.

Curtis notes: “Keir’s navy shirt reinforces his message of reliability. Blue is the colour of communication and the darker shade makes a more formal appearance with a distinct focus on leadership without looking too corporate.”Starmer has been pictured wearing the shirt often without a tie and rolled up sleeves, perhaps conveying his work ethic and willingness to ‘get stuck in’.

Starmer’s versatility evokes resourcefulness and his readiness to get stuck in (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

When Starmer does indulge in his party colours, he opts for a muted red, often paired with a white shirt and navy suit. This reserved approach elicits Starmer’s caution, as red is often equated with “confidence and charisma”, notes Curtis.

Whilst Starmer has certainly won in the suit department – with Sunak’s cropped trouser throwing the 5ft 6in PM’s proportions off kilter – it seems Sunak’s versatile quarter zip has won favour among fashion lovers. The style serves as a status symbol for men of a certain position – either thrown over a T-shirt or a shirt and tie. It’s corporate, casual and – crucially for Sunak – can be both.

Sunak’s reliable jumper is a style worn by both David Beckham and the Duchess of Sussex (Danny Lawson/PA)

Whether the candidate’s attires convey stability or tedium – one thing about fashion is that the message isn’t always clear – so perhaps we should leave that to their policies.

How to get the look

(Charles Tyrwhitt/PA)

Charles Tyrwhitt, Merino Zip Neck Jumper – Steel Blue, £79.95

(Marks and Spencer/PA)

M&S, Sartorial Regular Fit Luxury Cotton Double Cuff Twill Shirt, £45

Source: independent.co.uk