When it comes to a signature look, Donald Trump’s hair usually hogs the attention. But as his combover achieves “new normal” status, the public is now focusing on another curiosity: Trump’s remarkably long ties.
When comedian Jon Stewart recently caricatured the new president on CBS’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” he did so wearing a red tie so long it dragged on the floor.
“I thought this is how men dressed now,” Stewart quipped.
Well, one man anyway.
President Trump’s penchant for unfashionably long ties is puzzling given that he is famously obsessed with style and appearance. He reportedly watches interviews and press conferences with the sound turned off, the better to focus on visuals. A source who worked with Trump recently told Axios: “If you’re going to be a public person for [Trump], whether it’s a lawyer or representing him in meetings, then you need to have a certain look.”
The president’s own look, however, tells a different story. Barbara Perry, presidential studies director at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, says Trump is sending a message with his overly long ties and his “devil-may-care” attitude about style.
“He’s saying, ‘I don’t give a damn how I look or how I act. That’s what the American people wanted, and it’s what Washington needs,’ ” Perry said.
Of course, Trump is not the only president to make unusual style choices.
“Richard Nixon wore wingtips on the beach,” Perry said, “but that was just Nixon being awkward.”
More recently, the fashion police went after Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, for jogging shorts and mom jeans, respectively.
Just how long are Trump’s ties? Current trends call for a tie to hit right around the belt, but Trump’s appear to hang several inches below his waistband.
During the campaign, he took heat for making his Trump-branded ties overseas, but little is known about the ties the president himself wears.
Trump reportedly favors Brioni suits, and Neiman Marcus sells a $230 red Brioni silk satin tie that looks very much like one the president regularly wears. The high-end Italian label would not comment on Trump’s fashion choices, nor would the White House.
Beyond who he is wearing, the bigger question is: why does Trump wear his tie so long? The most likely answer, some experts say, is that the man knows what he’s doing.
David Givens, an anthropologist who directs the Center for Nonverbal Studies, in Washington state, says a longer-than-normal tie “provides an optical illusion of stature — greater standing height — to suggest a bigger, more powerful body.”
At 6-foot, 3-inches tall, Trump certainly isn’t a victim of a tie that is just too long for his torso. Rather, he intentionally ties it so it hangs long. The proof is in the Scotch tape.
In December, when he was de-planing in Indianapolis to tour the Carrier plant, wind blew his red tie up to reveal that the billionaire uses tape to keep the back side in place.
The DIY trick is needed, tailors say, because Trump makes the shorter part of the tie so short — to allow for the long front — that it doesn’t reach the inner, securing loop.
Though a man’s tie is supposed to hit around the waist, that hasn’t always been the case, said Sven Raphael Schneider, founder of the Gentleman’s Gazette men’s style blog.
“In the ’20s and ’30s, ties were quite short,” he said. “Sometimes they’d reach the belly button at the most.
“But as far as I know, looking through history, I haven’t seen ties were ever fashionable the way Trump wears them.”
With Trump’s neckwear preference baffling the public, the prevailing theory is that as an amply sized man who seems to value a trim appearance he may be trying to hide a problem area.
“Maybe he thinks the long tie makes him slimmer,” said Alan Rouleau, a Newbury Street custom tailor, suit maker, and Trump supporter.
“For a guy who takes his image as seriously as he does, I can’t even imagine what he is thinking,” Rouleau said.
Maybe this is what’s going through his mind: The long tie comfortably covers the point where the belly meets the belt, said Rafael Jaen, a theatrical costume designer, author, and assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.
The low-hanging tie, he said, “creates a clean line.”
Trump may be one of the few men to wear a low-hanging tie, but he certainly isn’t the only guy eager for a little camouflage. So the question is whether the presidential imprimatur will set off a trend.
Robert Wilson, 50, a Trump supporter and a consultant from Ayer, says no.
“I happen to think it looks ridiculous,” he said. “I spent enough time in parochial school having to tie a tie just right, and if it wasn’t the right length, you were made to fix it.”
He searched for an analogy in women’s wear. “Just because Lady Gaga wears a meat dress doesn’t mean you would go and do it.”
Meanwhile, amid the charged atmosphere of Trump’s young presidency, no theory is too out there to be disbelieved, not even one that holds Trump’s ties are growing ever longer.
“I think there could be a Pinocchio thing going on,” said Megan Collins, founder of the high-profile Style Girlfriend blog. “Every time he lies it magically grows by half an inch.”Beth Teitell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @BethTeitell.