olitics of Fashion

Working in the public eye brings with it an extraordinary amount of public scrutiny and criticism. When you are the Vice President of the United States of America, the scrutiny can have far reaching effects.

However, when you are the Vice President representing your country at the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, you have a responsibility to dress with a certain amount of decorum.

Vice President Dick Cheney caused quite an uproar when he recently represented his country in Auschwitz wearing an olive parka embroidered with his name, a knit ski cap with the words “Staff 2001” on the front and brown hiking boots. Amid a sea of heads of state wearing dignified black coats and hats, Cheney stood out like a sore thumb.

The Washington Post described his appearance as “the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower”. Apparently Cheney is not the type to suffer cold all that much, as he demonstrated while sitting through the inauguration two weeks ago in freezing, snow-driven weather, wearing only a suitable overcoat. It is therefore bemusing to find him braving the forces of nature in wildly inappropriate name-tagged attire.

The fact of the matter is that a ceremony like Auschwitz deserves the proper respect. Not that anyone is questioning Cheney’s feelings about the event, but one does have to question his state of mind when he was getting dressed. Even his wife Lynn managed to don a black parka that conveyed the gravity of the event.

When it comes down to the way we are perceived, what we chose to wear helps people to form an opinion of us. No doubt many people now think Cheney a bit of lout for chosing his own comfort over the nature of the event he was attending. He might have suffered a little more out of respect for the atrocities that the Jewish people suffered in Auschwitz.

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