What clothes are appropriate to wear for candidates in local elections? It may seem like a simple question, but it’s one that every local election candidate needs to consider before starting their political campaign. The appropriate campaigning wardrobe is going to differ depending upon what office you are running for, what event you are dressing for, and what kind of audience you will be presenting yourself to.
When I’m doing door-to-door campaigning in own city (I’m an elected at-large city councilman), I always make sure that I dress on about the same level as the people whose homes I’m visiting. I prefer to wear jeans and a polo shirt (or my campaign t-shirt) and tennis shoes or comfortable boots.
I steer clear of wearing slacks and a dress shirt when I’m doing door-to-door campaigning for a couple of reasons. The first is that nicer clothes don’t lend themselves as well to the rigors of neighborhood walking. If you’re going to be walking and knocking on doors for hours at a time, especially during the warmer months, then dressier clothing just isn’t practical.
The second reason is the level of the office that I’m running for. City councilman is more of an “everyman” position, and I think that the voters can relate more with a council candidate who comes to their door wearing a pair of jeans rather than a dressy outfit.
Would blue jeans and sneakers be appropriate dress for someone who is running a political campaign for County Prosecutor or Judge? Probably not, since voters expect more professional-looking candidates in those kind of races.
As for how you should dress when you’re attending meetings, gatherings, fundraisers, campaign events, and other venues, there’s a simple rule that I like to follow: always dress one level above your audience. If your audience is going to be wearing jeans and t-shirts, make sure that you wear slacks and a dress shirt. If they will be wearing nicer clothes, make sure that you put on a jacket and tie. You get the picture.
One last important tip: it’s fine to wear your political campaign t-shirt when you’re at a fundraising event, doing door-to-door campaigning, or at carnivals and fairs . . . but put on something nicer if it’s any other type of meeting or campaign event. Wearing a campaign t-shirt to more formal events, with your name emblazoned in across your chest and back, is pretty tacky and will probably generate eye-rolling from a lot of attendees.