Shoes can make or mar your image, and astute politicians know the importance of footwear — after all a good pair of shoes (read: sneakers) can take you places and outsmart your opponents

There is an old saying that you can tell a Gentleman’s worth by his shoes. When politicians dress up, context is all that matters. One wrong ‘step’ is enough for the internet to bombard the politician left, right, and centre. That’s exactly what happened to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak this week. His choice of wearing sneakers — Adidas Sambas ($100) shoes upset many across the globe. Sunak was shredded by netizens and fashion czars, saying he “ruined it for everyone.”

Sunak, the wealthiest PM in the history of the UK, even apologised saying, “long-time devotee” of Adidas, but the damage was done. Sunak is not the only one who had to face flak for his choice of ‘solemates.’ Former US presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama flaunted their sneaker collections too often. And so does US Vice President Kamala Harris, and many more. Is it inappropriate for politicians to put on sneakers? Does it present them as someone who is too casual?

No Dress Code
Is there anywhere now that sneakers can’t be worn? “I don’t think this discussion is relevant in an Indian context. You see people dressed in all types of ways, even coming to Parliament. There is no dress code. Some people dress in the traditional attire of their community. Some wear national dress. Some wear Western formals; there are some in jeans and T-shirts,” says Galla Jayadev, industrialist and a former Indian politician.

Individual Choice
Politician Vijayender Goud is someone who regularly wears sneakers and kurtas for comfort, which blend traditional dressing with modern convenience. “Sneakers are meant to be comfortable. However, in instances where symbolism matters and appropriateness counts, the choice of what you wear, when you wear it, and how you wear it becomes epochal,” he feels. Vijayender believes the shade, costume, or action done by a public figure, especially a politician, carries some symbolic meaning.
“Sneakers may appear informal and down-to-earth, but their propriety is dependent on the situation in which they are worn,” says the politician adding that if the Prime Minister walks into the Parliament wearing sneakers it will send the wrong signal. Rishi Sunak’s choice of Adidas Sambas indicates his merge of comfortability with approachability through an unpretentious $100 pair of shoes. “I believe simple attire can be perceived by both the media as well as public opinion. On one hand, some may interpret it positively, believing that he does mix with normal individuals while others may think it is not serious enough for someone vying for politics,” says Vijayender.
The sneakers to go with such attire as the kurta are not just a matter of fashion, but they have to be practical and contemporaneous. “This is depicted in my dad’s love for sneakers, which implies that he always wants to feel comfortable without forgetting his background. One can embrace modernity while still honouring tradition,” says the son of former Home Minister T Devender Goud. “When you see him striding alongside me in sneakers while I’m in chappals, it’s not just about shoes. In this way, it can blend both old and new together slowly but gracefully,” he points out.
The photograph does not only represent fashion; it also demonstrates how to negotiate cultural landscapes effortlessly, he feels. “It’s a reminder that personal style is more than just what you wear — it’s about expressing who you are and what you value,” adds Vijayender Goud.
Sneaker Statesmen

Fashion experts have pointed out how Sunak makes a statement with his choice of shoes. Ace fashion designer Kunal Rawal says, “I don’t think there is anything wrong with sneakers for not-so-formal meetings. As long as the shoes are being worn appropriately, it is acceptable. It’s just important to remember when and where you choose to wear them.” Rina Dhaka, a renowned fashion designer, feels that since innovation has created comfort, it is hard to seek otherwise. “Most of us, including brides, wear formal shoes. But after 2-3 hours, they ditch them for sneakers under lehngas and sarees,” she says. It’s undeniable that the merits of a well-matched story of formality. “But if it requires a long time of walking and standing, a sneaker is best to ditch the pain and be comfy,” says Rina. While people niff and naff about a politician’s choice of footwear, our natty netas know exactly when to put their best foot forward and retract their steps in the game of politics!
( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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