Slick, efficient, precise. Watching Rishi Sunak in his budget campaign video, I am reminded of Daniel Craig as James Bond. Not in the way he moves, with an invisible, Christ-like halo around him, nor in the way he gesticulates Blairishly as John Barry-like music swells in the background, pressing us to grab the nearest union jack and wear it like a cardigan. No, it is the way Sunak dresses, like a hired assassin planning a quick clean-up after his latest mission. There is a simplicity and, appropriately, an economy to his sartorial choices that seem wildly oppositional to how Conservatives have been dressing. Sunak is here to Get The Job Done.
The era of the casually chaotic dress code of Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings – like members of the Acid Ramblers scene who have had too much home-brewed cider – has ended. In its place has emerged a style that weaponises a soft, casual dressing style. We will call it hedge-fund haute couture.
The cornerstone of this image is a crisp, slim-fit, brilliantly white shirt that clings to the chest, giving the slight hint of pectoral muscles. Occasionally, the sleeves of the shirt are rolled up with algorithmic symmetry. The Oxford shoes are always flawlessly polished. The ties, which pop with a primary colour, are on the skinny side. It is a pencil-thin look, the sartorial version of an equals sign, which semaphores safety and level-headedness.
This look is cleverly constructed. Sunak has made himself a brand, a logo that we won’t forget. Even when he diverts from the core style (with a Barbour jacket, an unfussy hoodie or, in the video, a crew-neck jumper), he doesn’t stray far from his USP of dependable stalwart. He is always well groomed, with a Clooney-ish sweep of hair and an overmoisturised face that would surely squeak like a rubber toy if you touched it.
That said, it is hard not to groan when reading the titles given to Sunak, such as the problematic and confusing phrase “maharaja of the Dales”. Locating Sunak in the language of the British empire reduces him to an illustration on the wall of an Indian restaurant.
Perhaps Sunak does not have the luxury of dressing as bumbling Eton mess? It is the dichotomy of being, as a person of colour, hypervisible yet invisible within the image you are presenting.