Politicians bring style to corridors of power
Vancouver park-board commissioner Spencer Herbert recalled with a laugh how he wanted to dress on election night in 2005. Herbert, who enjoys fashion, donned an outfit that he described as "half-Mountie, half-bullfighter". He told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview that his partner, activist Romi Chandra, told him he couldn't go out looking like that. Herbert, who was elected later that night on the COPE slate, decided to tone it down.
"Romi is my fashion consultant," Herbert quipped.
Herbert likes wearing hats, and in the summer he'll even wear white shoes to park board meetings. "Take your fashion risks," he said, "because otherwise, people forget you exist."
Herbert is the liveliest dresser in civic politics these days, and he says he draws inspiration from colourful politicians of the past, such as prime ministers Pierre Trudeau and John A. Macdonald. Trudeau once wore a cape to a Grey Cup game. "They had some pizzazz," Herbert said.
He noted that the public often sees politicians as authority figures in their suits and ties, and he thinks some sartorial splendour sets him apart from the crowd. "A bit of brightness or a funny pattern can certainly brighten the mood," he said. "It can help people deal with you."
Herbert isn't the only politician who has injected a sense of style into the local political scene. Vancouver Centre MP Hedy Fry and Vancouver-Burrard MLA Lorne Mayencourt look like they spend a fair amount of time thinking about what they wear. Mayencourt told the Straight in a phone interview that he has been impressed by the fashion sensibility of three other members of the legislature: Premier Gordon Campbell, Finance Minister Carole Taylor, and Opposition house leader Mike Farnworth. "They're always pretty stylish," Mayencourt said. "They seem to find the right colours for themselves."
Mayencourt says his favourite colour is blue, and that he prefers to wear Birkenstocks. He also relies on local tailor Andy Yuen to give him an edge with his suits. "If anything ever goes wrong with them, he knows how to fix them really fast," he said.
Vision Vancouver's sharpest dresser is, without a doubt, Coun. Raymond Louie, who was first elected in 2002. Louie, who is almost always seen in a dark suit, told the Straight in a phone interview that he has 30 to 40 ties. He likes blue ones. "I just came from China," he said. "I was able to pick up some silk ties for a very good price."
Louie said he prefers "summer-weight suits" to something heavier. "It seems to be my uniform of choice for council," he noted.
NPA councillor Kim Capri is probably the spiffiest member of the NPA caucus, although she faces some competition from Coun. B.C. Lee and Mayor Sam Sullivan. Coun. Peter Ladner has changed his look since the last election and now sports a goatee, making him look a little more casual and less businesslike.
Capri told the Straight in a phone interview that she enjoys wearing red and white during the holidays, but also loves black because it is a "slimming colour". She makes sure she keeps a lint brush nearby to get rid of any dog hair on her suit.
"I love boots, because if you wear boots with a long skirt you don't have to wear pantyhose," Capri said. "For me, it's totally about comfort and being practical. The best outfit is one you can wear sort of tromping around on a construction site or the Downtown Eastside, and then be sitting in a business meeting a half-hour later. Slacks and jackets are good for that."
She is most comfortable, however, in casual clothes, including a Green Bay Packers sweatshirt and Levi's. "Everybody's butt looks good in lululemon," she said.
Capri also loves shoes, and lots of them. When asked about her favourites, she replied, "John Fluevog all the way."