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    Obama, Pranab and Mishal

    WHAT’s in a pinstripe? Plenty it would seem, judging by the brouhaha generated in the international press about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pin stripe suit. Only the gold pinstripe was no ordinary pinstripe. Close up shots revealed that it was the PM’s name (Narendra Damodardas Modi — Damodar being his father’s name) etched on the navy blue bandhgala.
    It immediately gave much fodder to the social media mills. Twitter was all a-Twitter about the suit. While the PM’s followers praised his dress sense to the skies, his opponents sharpened their knives. “Ouch! A narcissistic suit!” tweeted geostrategist Brahma Chellaney, while a British newspaper jibed: “Worried he wouldn’t know who you were?” Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post commented, “I’ve seen monograms everywhere. But the full name on a bespoke suit? C’mon man!” Others were quick to point out that the last world leader who sported a similar name-embossed pinstripe suit was Egypt’s ousted Hosni Mubarak. It was also reported that these custom-made fabrics by London’s Holland & Sherry start at $340 per metre, and the bill for the suit would have been nearly GBP 10,000. Indian fashion designers haven’t spared him either. From ‘ghastly’ to ‘lacking subtlety’ to ‘not cool’ and ‘in poor taste’, everyone from James Ferreira to Wendell Rodricks has weighed in on the topic.
    Obama, however managed to give Modi a sartorial pat on the back before he left: “He’s tough. And he also has style,” he said. One of our newspapers back home wrote: “Move aside, Michelle Obama. The world has a new fashion icon.” However, the jury’s still out on whether he meant it seriously or spoke tongue-in-cheek. There’s no doubt that first impressions are made on appearances. And for political leaders, those first impressions are vital. No wonder then, that Modi’s half-sleeved power kurtas have come in for nearly as much analyses as his words.
    Not that Obama has gotten away scot-free. According to TIME magazine, he’s come in for more flak for his dressing than his predecessors — odd, because he’s generally regarded as a sharp dresser. But his ‘Mom’ jeans, occasional tan suits (a sampling of headlines on the latter include The Audacity of Taupe and Yes We Tan!) have shown that little escapes today’s media-savvy folk. Hillary Clinton’s love for pantsuits (designed by Susanna Beverly Hills) during her tenure as Secretary of State had also come under laser sharp media focus.
    Aware that she was a woman in a world dominated by hard-nosed male politicians who often got away with style gaffes only because they weren’t women, Clinton advised fellow female politicians to adopt Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice and “grow a skin like a rhinoceros”. Following her own advice, she often joked about her penchant for mono-toned pantsuits in every possible colour. She was also quoted as saying in 2008 at the Democratic National Convention:  “To my supporters — to my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits — from the bottom of my heart: thank you.” Her Twitter biography also describes herself as a ‘pantsuit aficionado!’ Well, she certainly doesn’t skirt the issue.
    So to dress sharp or to dress down seems to be the question. Narendra Modi certainly seems to have made his fashion statement and everyone has noticed!
    m firstimpressionbangalore@gmail.com


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