Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Paul Ryan's clothes don't matter. There I said it.

The internet discussion of Paul Ryan's image has reached critical mass. Yes, everyone from Pulitzer Prize-winner Robin Givhan to the twitterverse is talking about his hair, as we noted earlier this week.

But it's not just the hair. It's the lack of a tie. It's the ill-fitting jacket. It's his overall "hotness."

And now, in a way only possible in the internet age, people are talking about how much people are talking about what Ryan looked like at Romney's announcement: here's Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Beast.

All this discussion of image and hair and clothes reminds many of us of the last time the Republicans announced a vice presidential nominee. Jen Doll draws it out for us on the Atlantic Wire.

But here's the thing: Paul Ryan will soon go back to wearing ties and jackets that fit. And then this discussion will be over. Blogs like this one and fashion columnists might continue to have something to say about what colors he selects for the vice presidential debate and so on, but barring a major gaffe, this will be the last time we see his wardrobe discussed on CNN. There will be no close scrutiny of photos to try to identify the designers and prices of his clothing on morning network talk shows. And while we might see endless references to his blue eyes and "boyish charm," they will appear in preface to whatever it was he actually said or did. And in this way, Ryan will benefit greatly from the accident of his gender. He will not see his wardrobe become an entire conversation independent of anything else he says or does, as it has for Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, or any number of the women who have appeared on this blog. Women must work much harder just to draw the focus away from their clothes. This is why I write this.

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