Who: Sizing up Raul Ryan's sartorial side


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So far, the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan ticket has been given the approval rating typically reserved for a Hollywood bromance in the dead of August. Two thumbs up for the cute Republican dudes!

The man from Janesville, Wis., was hoisted onto the love pedestal, a nerd suddenly out of his loafers and into the sex dreams of Republicans. The website Politico worked up a complete Ryan hot sheet, noting his "dreamy bedroom eyes" and "buff" body, while TMZ called him "the hottest vice-presidential candidate ever."

But one thing bugged me about Mr. Ryan's appearance on the day of the announcement in Virginia, on the symbolic deck of a battleship. He had on a blazer with an open-neck shirt and dark trousers; Mr. Romney was in his familiar shirt sleeves and a tie. Polished but relaxed. Yet if Mr. Ryan was chosen to bring youth and vigor and a kind of Ayn Rand boldness to the GOP, as the commentators kept saying, then his jacket was killing it.

So much for his lethal six-pack. He was swimming in his coat, like Tom Hanks in "Big" when he becomes a kid again.

I asked my colleague Bruce Pask, the men's fashion editor of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, for his thoughts on Mr. Ryan's sizing problem. "Like many American suit wearers, I think he suffers from the misconception that the size a guy wears directly correlates with his masculinity," Mr. Pask said. "In their minds, being a 42 is more manly than a 40. And yet what actually happens when a guy wears something too big is the obvious: He looks smaller, dwarfed by shoulders that are too big, a shirt collar that is too roomy, lapels that are too wide."

He added: "A suit should properly contain the body. It's a very empowering thing to wear a jacket that hugs the torso, a shape that you fill completely and appropriately."

Instead of boasting about his insane workout, perhaps Mr. Ryan should get a skilled tailor or challenge campaign aides to pay closer attention to tangible details rather than abstractions such as whether the candidates appeal to nonrich, nonwhite voters.

One thing is sure: The tightfitting ideology of politicians nowadays is reflected in their narrow clothing choices, Democrats and Republicans alike. Political correctness is also to blame for a lack of imagination and a failure to be fully adult, which, perhaps paradoxically, is to be willful and indifferent to trends or criticism.

Winston Churchill had that ability, as a recent book, "The Art of Being Winston Churchill," makes clear. So did Jack Kennedy. The vibrancy of his altruistic message stemmed in part from his total self-assurance, which he had in a suit or a bath towel.

This is one reason I admire Hillary Clinton. Women in politics tend to get a raw deal when it comes to their clothing and hairdos. The media have adopted the unreasonable view since the Palin debacle in 2008 that these expenditures can't be too costly or involve the routine services of a hairdresser or makeup person. But by whose standards? It's an impossible situation, as Ms. Clinton knows. And I suspect it's why she decided to let her hair grow out (or wear it in a manageable bun) and just get on with it.

She recently said, in effect, "If I want to wear my glasses, I'll wear my glasses." She is completely comfortable in her own skin. She also, unlike the current presidential contenders, has nothing to sell.

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