PE2011 Best Dressed Candidates

Former US President Bill Clinton

Being President is not just about substance, it’s also about how you look.

These days clothes may no longer maketh the man, but a bad outfit can still unmake an otherwise promising candidate.

What insights can we gain from analyzing the Presidential candidates’ outfits? Read on for our lighthearted eve-of-National Day edition.


Tan Cheng Bock

Tan Cheng Bock has adopted an unofficial costume for his Presidential bid. Using the national colours of Red & White, he subliminally drapes himself in the imagery of Singapore’s Flag.

Doc’s white shirt stays the same, although the red tie seems to change from appearance to appearance. TV and regular press footage are too lo-res for analysis, but Doc’s official campaign website has a high-resolution image. It shows enough detail to discern the red tie’s pattern — a series of body-less horse heads with blinders and nose-rings.

What is the deeper meaning of the blinded horse heads with nose-rings? Only Doc knows, but we can speculate:

  • Riding away into the sunset with the Presidency?
  • Leading blinkered Singaporeans, like horses out of the darkness? But why the nose ring?!?
  • If the Prime Minister and Cabinet don’t give in, a horse head is on the way?

Horse head design on Doc's tie

So far the outfit has been very effective, but it doesn’t work as well in some contexts – such as Doc’s ukulele performance of “Count on Me Singapore”. We would recommend variations on the outfit, or a few outfits to match different contexts. Even Batman wears something different during the day!

. . .

Tony Tan & crinkled suit

Tony Tan has a consistent dark suited outfit for his official engagements. This likely reflects his roots as a banker years ago and his recent role in GIC.

We’ve noticed that the suit tends to be a bit crumpled these days. This may be due to Tony Tan losing weight: in his earlier incarnation as Deputy Prime Minister, he had a certain gravity and political heavy-weight presence. Maybe we are seeing a leaner Tony for a modern era of austerity and economic crisis.

Whether he wins the Presidential Election will be decided on more than sartorial sense, but Tony should get a better fitting suit that doesn’t crinkle as much. No need to be cheapskate!

. . .

Tan Kin Lian has many outfits, but one of his more regular appearances is in long-sleeve shirt, sometimes with a tie. Less formal than a full business suit, it allows Kin Lian to come across as more “down to earth” – a tactic which Tan Cheng Bock is using to good effect.

Caught between a rock and a hard place, Baey Yam Keng wonders if this photo will come back to haunt him.

While doing Google searches for Tan Kin Lian photos, we found a very interesting picture from 2007. It was taken at the conference “Public Relations 2.0: Engaging Stakeholders in the New Media Landscape”.

The most fascinating part of the photo album is a shot with Jennifer Lewis (now on Tony Tan’s campaign team), Baey Yam Keng (who knows how to dress differently) and Tan Kin Lian.

Back in 2007, did any of these people know where fate would bring them?

. . .

An aspirant to Singapore's 007th Presidency, posing with lady supporters and the technical wizards of Q branch. The name's Jee Say. TAN Jee Say.

Tan Jee Say must win the award for Best Presidential Business Suit. His outfit looks sleek, smooth and shiny, with a double-breasted cut. Not many Asian men can carry off this look well – it requires a certain build and physical presence.

Looking at Jee Say’s photos online, you’d be hard pressed to find a crinkle in his suit. This is clearly a man who knows how to dress well when the occasion calls for it.

One photo of him struck us: shirt with blue and white stripes, paired with a red tie on a grey suit. Perhaps Jee Say is subliminally conveying his message of being a unifying figure: SDP red, Worker’s Party blue, PAP white???

Check in over the next few days for more PE 2011 facts, analysis and stories!


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