AUGUST 16, 2012
There are many, many, many, many sartorial critics who have agreed that the number one problem Paul Ryan poses as Mitt Romney’s running mate is not the cuts he hopes to make to the U.S. budget, but rather the cuts he has failed to allow a tailor to make. Like many American suit wearers, I think he suffers from the misconception that the size a guy wears directly correlates with his masculinity. In their minds, being a 42 is more manly than a 40,” T Magazine’s Bruce Pask’ told the Times’ Cathy Horyn. The Washington Post described him as “rumpled,” and wondered “How could a fitness buff with 6 to 8 percent body fat wear a suit that looked two sizes too big?” The Cut took it one step further. “Long story short, his clothes are too big, and he should get a good tailor so the world can ogle his abs more freely,” wrote Charlotte Cowles. In fact, that’s exactly what Ryan shouldn’t do, if he knows what’s good for him politically.
The Romney campaign has not exactly been known, to date, for its relatability. That’s not just a matter of Romney’s difficulty communicating with ordinary people on the trail; he also very much looks the part of a guy who was to the manor born. He is a bit too put-together to seem real. (I once decided to put together a slide show of Mitt Romney’s hair looking even vaguely disheveled. It took me hours upon hours, and I ended up with 11 slides.) Enter Paul Ryan, and suddenly, you’ve got people speculating over whether this is the handsomest presidential ticket ever. His eyes, his P90X workouts—all have been dissected with rather passionate interest, even on the left. One liberal journalist admitted to me her infatuation while writing something critical about his addition to the ticket. “He’s close to my ideal. Good looking, but not intimidating so.” And that is the key. Put the man in a GQ-approved slim-cut, and he intimidates. Gone is the relatability, gone is the illusion that this is just your slightly-better-looking buddy made good, or the cute guy who just might take an interest. He is no longer the Midwestern boy next door suddenly thrust into this crazy political world. He is a fierce, lean man out to slice your Medicare benefits to skinny-tie proportions.
Worst of all for him: the Randian roots of his self-interested abs become more apparent. We as a people might be able to ignore Ryan’s frightening policy predilections when they’re hidden under a billowing button-down, but I’m not so sure the American people are quite ready to stomach such a stomach.