When a celebrity artist dresses say with buttons open and parts of the body exposed, we find it palatable because they are artists. However, when a politician does this, it is unacceptable. There is a strong relationship between fashion, the position you are as a politician or celebrity artist, the reputation you built prior, and what people expect of you.
Interviewer (I): How would you describe yourself?
Interviewee (R): I like to be different. I like to lead. I like to stand out. I like to be noticed.
I: How would describe your sense of style and what do you think of your dress sense?
R: My sense of fashion is like a merger of different things. One, it’s very influenced by my art, and by what I watched and listened to while growing up. I was obsessed by Prince and what he would wear. So, I would say my sense of style is influenced by tastes and my personality which is my need to stand out because I always want people to notice me. My sense of style is very retro.
I: What do you think of suits?
R: I am very afraid of suits. Suits are not something that I like. Suits remind me of what I don’t want to be. Suits were a bit too serious for me. My dad wore suits. Whenever he got home, and you did something wrong, you knew you were going to get it. Suits are things that I always tried to stay away from. They represent too much, what a man is supposed to be. Suits are too much pressure. I don’t like suits. It’s also why I try so hard not to have a regular nine to five, suit and tie job. Moreover, I think they are too choking. Simply put, I don’t like suits and they are not for me.
I: Are you aware of any opinions held by people who know you – either admirers or critics – on your dress sense?
R: Yes, people have had opinions about it. Some people feel like it’s a bit too much, or it’s just too different or strange. People have had very strong opinions about it. However, as time has gone on, the more popular I got, the more people accepted my dressing and became less critical. The more people got to know I was an artist and a social media personality; they tended to let it go. So it comes with the terrain. People care less to criticise you if they feel you are important somehow. For example, I don’t think anybody could dress like Michael Jackson and get away with it.
I: How would you relate this celebrity position to politics and politicians?
R: The first thing is the expectation. People already see politicians as leaders. We expect them to be a certain way because of the role they are supposed to play. We expect them to be dressed smart; and not sloppy in any way. So because of the position, we tend to expect a lot from their fashion. I am not saying they have to be dressed expensive. But we expect them to be put together. We don’t expect to see a politician with his shirt flying out or with shoes that are not shined or with agbada that is not ironed. If a politician is dressed shabbily, the first thing people will say is “s/he is supposed to be making decisions, look at how s/he is dressed”.
However, this can be reversed. When a celebrity artist dresses say with buttons open and parts of the body exposed, we find it palatable because they are artists. However, when a politician does this, it is unacceptable. There is a strong relationship between fashion, the position you are as a politician or celebrity artist, the reputation you built prior, and what people expect of you. Hillary Clinton once confessed to being pressured to dress a certain way, in a manner that showed power: that she couldn’t be too feminine because of the role she was aspiring to. Also, people had also said that her penchant for pant suits and the manner she cut her hair was due to her position and the positions she aspired to. You find that although she wears colours, her colours are never too loud. If she is wearing a blue suit, it tends to be deep blue. If it is red, it is a kind of red that isn’t too out there in your face. The same can be said of Theresa May or Christine Lagarde. Women in power tend to want to dress a certain way. Not use excessive make up etc. Princess Diana was criticized for being too sexy because of her position in the royal family. If she wore a short skirt or a low top, she was criticized. She was not expected to dress that way due to the position she held.
I: Do you have any opinions on how a politician should dress?
R: If I were to go with the public, I would say I want them to dress smart, with ironed clothes and all that. But for me, I think it is more about the job. I am not saying I expect them to dress sloppy, but if they could dress more chilled say in jeans – again, maybe this has to do with my bias since I don’t like suits – and get the job done, I am all for that.
I: Are you saying there is no relationship, indeed, no impact of a politician’s dressing or dress sense on his/her job?
R: I don’t think there is an impact. What I am saying is: society expects them to dress a certain way. But my own is that I just want them to get the job done. They don’t always have to be in agbada or in suits. They could dress down some days in t-shirts and jeans or they could wear tropical shirts. Again, I am not saying I expect them to be sloppy.
I: You keep saying you don’t like suits. Are you saying you like suits on no one. For example, some politicians have appeared very smartly in trendy suits over the years. Silvio Berlusconi, David Cameron, Donald Trump, Paul Kagame and Bukola Saraki are examples. What have you to say about these politicians and their look in suits?
R: I like people to do what they feel is comfortable with them. If they feel comfortable with suits, it’s fine. I have seen several people look really good in suits. My point about suits is personal to me. I don’t have anything against suits.
I: Finally, Dino Melaye is a notorious Nigerian senator. Have you a comment on his fashion statements and the relationship with his work as a legislator?
R: I don’t know much of what he does as a senator so I don’t know if I can really comment on it. About his fashion sense, he wears nice trendy things that young people like. He has an interesting sense of fashion. I like some of what he wears but I don’t know much of what he does. I don’t know his job, I am not aware of what he does or what he is supposed to be doing.