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Illustrations by Mr Angelo Trofa | Words by Mr Glenn O'Brien

Campaigning in style? Well, actually political style is a contradiction in terms. Style is individual. Politics is more about fashion. Fashion is dressing for a group, observing dress codes to please others. Politicians dress the way they think their voters want them to. And when they don't, things often go badly for them. Here are some tips on how to dress for electoral success.

A candidate should never look rich, even if (especially if) he's a billionaire

Dress downscale

A candidate should never look rich, even if (especially if) he's a billionaire. Senator John Kerry looked a little too rich when he ran for president with his CEO suits and artfully patterned ties that looked suspiciously Ferragamo. That chic canvas country jacket with a corduroy collar should never have strayed out of the horse barn. And he should have avoided windsurfing in a wet suit too. And the Livestrong wristband. The handsome, charming and rich Mr Jon Huntsman wore plaid shirts and checked shirts with suits and tab collars. His denim jacket had a corduroy collar. I remember girls talking about guys being too good looking. That means they think he's gay. Mr Huntsman just appeared too good looking to be president.

Don't be fussy

What cost Mr John Edwards the chance to run as the Democratic candidate in the 2004 election was his $400 haircut. I mean the very idea of paying $400 for a haircut is alien to hard-working Americans, but his haircut also looked as if it cost $400. And he was very unfortunately filmed adjusting that masterpiece. When former president Mr Bill Clinton was running, he looked as if he paid $4 for his haircut. Mr Mitt Romney's hair looks professionally done. His grey temples look almost too Hollywood to be real. President Barack Obama's hairstyle, on the other hand, is smart. It's the same every day. It looks as if it could have been done on any military base in the world and it's short enough to obviate any questions of process. Mr Paul Ryan has long parted his hair on the centre right, but perhaps attempting to engage the base he moved the part farther right. At the Republican National Committee he even appeared to be going for broader appeal by abandoning the once prominent part for a shorter version of the Bieber swirl. I have always blamed former president Mr Jimmy Carter's one-term presidency on an unlucky decision to switch his part from right to left while in office. The comb-over is also unwise as it is symbolic of dishonesty; it was probably as damaging to former New York mayor Mr Rudy Giuliani as the photos of him in full blonde wig drag.

Regularity and consistency is key

The typical politician wears two-button single-breasted suits, button-down collars as dress shirts and plain red or blue ties. Don't do fancy ties - they look rich or, worse, creative. A stripe is fine, but club ties look elitist and controversial. Don't wear a hat. While Mr Herman Cain had a strong moment in the Republican campaign, that black fedora with the leather braid and shades suggested he had a playa side we didn't know about, perhaps leading to fatal questions regarding his amorous inclinations. Hats haven't worked for anyone since JFK sent them out of fashion a half-century ago. (The occasional yarmulke is OK.) Also avoid putting on a construction helmet, or a military helmet. The latter almost single-handedly knocked Mr Mike Dukakis out in 1988. Sweaters are difficult. Senator John McCain blamed his advisers for putting him in "gay sweaters" in 2007, in the run-up to his doomed presidential fight against President Obama. Mr Rick Santorum may have been held back by his frumpy sweater vests. It's probably best for politicians to avoid casual clothes as much as possible. They should always look as if they're working. To appear casual, candidates should simply take off their jackets and roll up their sleeves as if they've been working all night.

Avoid Excess

If you are a bigger guy, like Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, wear dark colours, never take your jacket off and keep your double chin up so that it doesn't completely cover your tie knot. Beards and double-breasted jackets make it look as if you have something to hide. If you absolutely must wear jeans, don't wear a relaxed fit - a mistake formerly made by both President Obama and Mr Romney. Politicans must never look too relaxed. Avoid dad jeans or anything that looks pre-washed. Wear jeans the cowboy way, like Governor Rick Perry or former president George W Bush, as if you were just out clearing brush: lean, snug and home washed. You must wear an American flag pin. Even President Obama had to after he said he wouldn't be forced to. Get a discreet one that looks as if there's a breeze - even the flag on the airless moon has a bit of a ripple.

The next US Presidential and Senate elections will be held on 6 November 2012.

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