John Horgan ditched the glasses and became premier

    1 of 9 2 of 9

      Here's one thing I've learned over the years: if you write about a politician's eyewear, it has the potential to ignite hostile comments from readers.

      Nonetheless, the history of bespectacled political leaders continues to fascinate me. 

      Gordon Campbell started wearing glasses before his greatest political triumph: winning the 2001 election.

      The specs made Campbell look a little more professorial and a little less mean.

      And this might have diminished the image of Campbell as the corporate shill in a suit and tie who blew the 1996 election for the B.C. Liberals. 

      In April 2010, then premier Gordon Campbell was wearing specs but Mayor Gregor Robertson wasn't.
      Stephen Hui

      After the 2001 B.C. Liberal landslide, I wondered if Campbell might have fared better five years earlier had he been wearing glasses at that time.

      Similarly, Stephen Harper enjoyed greater political success after he switched from contact lenses to wearing glasses in 2010.

      Just like in Campbell's case, the eyewear made Harper appear more cerebral and less cruel and creepy looking.

      Some have argued that glasses helped soften Stephen Harper's image.

      Perhaps this was necessary to help Harper and his Conservatives finally win a majority government in 2011.

      When Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson started wearing glasses in public, there were some snickers on the citycaucus.com website, which was run by his critics.

      But it didn't hamper his success at the polls as he won the 2011 and 2014 elections.

      The public has gotten used to seeing Gregor Robertson in glasses as police board and city council meetings.
      Stephen Hui

      B.C.'s last premier, Christy Clark, wasn't wearing glasses when she ran for B.C. Liberal leader in 2011.

      But shortly taking the top job, she started wearing specs.

      Christy Clark occasionally was spotted wearing glasses at government announcements, particularly before the 2013 election.

      For some unexplained reason, Clark stopped wearing glasses in almost all of her public appearances after she was elected premier in 2013.

      Campbell, Harper, Clark, and Robertson all donned glasses around the age that people's eyesight starts deteriorating.

      So they can all plausibly deny that they did this for any political purposes, such as to appear more intelligent than they actually are.

      But B.C.'s current premier, John Horgan, went in the opposite direction.

      For most of his career in provincial politics, he was wearing spectacles, even after he became NDP leader in 2014.

      The old John Horgan was wearing glasses and a tie when he visited the Georgia Straight and met the future Miss Chinese Vancouver, Maria Rincon, in 2014.
      Charlie Smith

      But a few months before the 2017 election, he ditched his glasses.

      In so doing, Horgan looked less nerdy and, I would argue, became more electable.

      He suddenly came across as more of an alpha male, which has been reinforced in various imagery since he becoming premier.

      It's worth noting that Horgan's predecessor as B.C. NDP leader, Adrian Dix, kept the four-eyed look throughout the 2013 campaign.

      B.C's newest premier, on the other hand, morphed into a politician who appealed to macho males who watch 24-hour sports stations and drive pickup trucks to work.

      In fact, the NDP marketed Horgan extensively to this demographic, and achieved an important breakthrough in the eastern suburbs of Vancouver.

      This photo of John Horgan in glasses and a suit and tie appeared on the NDP website in 2016.

      Not much has been said over the past year about Horgan's decision to dump the eyewear.

      Instead, pundits have pointed to his promise to end road tolls, his upbeat demeanour, and the scandals dogging the B.C. Liberals as key reasons behind the NDP forming a minority government

      But given how tight this year's election was, Horgan's eyeglass-free face might be another factor that helped make him B.C.'s 36th premier.

      John Horgan wasn't wearing glasses by the time the NDP campaign began in earnest in April.

      So what's the lesson in all of this?

      Bookish left-of-centre male politicians might find that they can improve their chances by getting rid of their four-eyed look before an election.

      Comments