Is the red power tie as American as apple pie? Republican presidential candidates seem to think so.
During the first Republican presidential debate for the 2024 election, all seven male candidates were sporting some version of a red tie. Red is the color for the Republican Party, after all.
“There is a whole psychology of colors,” men’s fashion expert Hendrik Pohl, CEO of ties-necktie.com, told ABC News in 2015. “A lot of people may not really consider it that much when you pick out a tie color, but in politics I’m certain you do.”
In the second GOP debate, all of the male candidates wore red ties again, and the only female onstage, Nikki Haley, donned a metallic red power-suit dress. Bret Baier, one of the debate moderators, was even modeling the look.
Richard Ford, author of “Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History,” argues that it’s not just about the tie. It’s the combinations that send a message.
“A red necktie paired with a white shirt and blue suit has always had an overly literal symbolism,” Ford, who is also a Stanford Law School professor, told The New York Times. “Red, white and blue, see? I’m patriotic!”
Trump and his ties to the red tie
The look became especially memorable for many fashion-conscious and politically savvy Americans to denote one former president in particular — Donald Trump.
Ford says what makes Trump’s look unique isn’t just about the colors. It’s also about Trump’s signature method of tying — “tied to be way too long,” hanging down below his belt.
“Several of the candidates invoking Trump’s dress style have publicly criticized him during their campaigns,” Ford said, per the Times.
The blue suit, red power tie look
But even before Trump’s signature look, the red tie had been brought out for the debate stage.
Was there a moment when a wardrobe stylist determined that the dark blue suit, a red power tie and a mini American flag lapel pin were the makings of a president?
When Sen. Mitt Romney was running for president and donned his own signature look for the debate stage — a light blue suit and either a yellow or blue tie for most debates — one stylist argued it made him more appealing and made him stand out compared to the other candidates.
“Red is being overused. ... There’s been a solid theme going on with most of the candidates,” Lisa A. Kline, Sarah Palin’s former stylist, told the New York Post.
Another fashion expert argued that blue is actually the safer choice.
Vox compiled a graphic mapping out the colors of ties candidates wore to each debate during the 2012 GOP debates. Red tones came out on top, with 38% of candidates opting for the red, while blue came in close second with 30% blue-toned ties.
Image matters when it comes to voting
In an age of social media — where most people see the debates via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram before sitting down and watching the full debate — image makes a difference.
“Where we are in the culture right now, it’s the nonverbal communication tools that matter most,” Lauren Rothman, a political image consultant based in Washington, D.C., told The New York Times. “We probably don’t have the sound on. The debate is in the background and we’re seeing you on mute. We may ultimately vote for you based on how you come across in a photograph.”
Another aspect of color coding also goes back to party affiliation — red is for Republicans, blue is for Democrats. So being deliberate about clothing and color choices could be an intentional move to signal to voters about who a certain candidate is and what party ideals they are campaigning on.
As for whether the red patterning continues for GOP candidates onstage, that will be seen in the next debate.
The third GOP primary debate takes place Wednesday, Nov. 8, from 6 p.m. to. 8 p.m. MST on NBC.