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John Fetterman and the Remaking of Political Image

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Although there was a rumor going around, courtesy of GQ, that Mr. Fetterman sometimes wore his favored looks with what the magazine identified as Maison Margiela side-zip boots, Rebecca Katz, a senior adviser to the Fetterman campaign, said that is inaccurate; they are literally Florsheim boots. He also has Under Armour and Skechers sneakers, and sometimes wears slides.

Combined along with his shaved head, goatee and tattoos (on his left arm, the ZIP code for Braddock, Pa., the town where he was mayor for 15 years; on his right, the dates when residents of Braddock were killed by gun violence during his terms in office), the effect practically reeks of that word so beloved of the political class, and so rarely related to them: authenticity.

It’s not that Mr. Fetterman looks particularly à la mode, but that he doesn’t look overly polished, or too fancy, or (yikes) styled. Indeed, he doth protest often that he has “negative fashion sense.” Which, in fact, is the purpose. He looks real, an avatar of the American archetype of the working man who does an honest day’s labor (although he did go to Harvard for his M.B.A., and his labor is generally deskbound).

He also presents a visual contrast with Dr. Mehmet Oz, who tends to the Trump uniform of blue suit and vibrant red tie, and David McCormick (very business casual), certainly one of whom will receive the Republican nomination after the outcomes of that primary recount are in.

As Ms. Katz, the senior adviser, said, “he just wears what feels comfortable.”

At a time when comfort dressing is on the rise, there are worse ways to persuade a disparate swath of the electorate that you simply understand their concerns and can represent them. That electorate may not have the time or inclination to read a number of policy proposals or platforms or take heed to stump speeches, but they know a kindred soul after they see one.

Credit…The Office of Governor Tom Wolf

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