Nicolás Maduro: the clothes that make the man

By Eduardo Sanchez

An important aspect of world leaders is the image that they project and their clothing is a central element in the way they present themselves to the world. While the standard image that comes to mind when thinking about a president is very formal attire, the president of Venezuela can easily be seen wearing a sports-like jumpsuit with the national colors and symbols whenever he is touring the streets of Venezuela or during official meetings.

However, Nicolás Maduro’s choice of attire is a continuation of Hugo Chávez’s style; Chavez began wearing more informal clothes when he was not wearing his traditional military uniform and trademark beret. Chávez became famous for his own style, which became part of his revolutionary image.

Once Maduro became president he followed his mentor’s example and now wears his nation’s proud colors and is not afraid to meet even other foreign dignitaries in this attire. We can assume that this is part of his image building strategy to bring him close to the average Venezuelan citizen.

We usually associate power and respect to those dressed in more formal attire. The somewhat official Venezuelan jumpsuit can allow the leader to be more modest in the way that he dresses but at the same time it enables him to still demonstrate nationalism and pride in one single image.

This is not to say that there is no interchangeability, as he does wear formal suits to state events. Maduro is versatile in this aspect of his image in being able to appeal to specific circumstances and audiences.

Maduro’s Twitter feed greatly uses images to supplement his actual messages and his attire is usually what strikes the viewer in the first instance. The jumpsuit is especially useful when touring the streets and advancing social programs, once again reinforcing this informal nature and being close to the average citizen.

Another example is demonstrated in the military scene. Even if he does not have a military background, while acting as commander-in-chief of the nation, he will use the appropriate attire.

Nonetheless, sometimes Maduro’s choice of clothes might seem contradictory to the circumstances. During the many funerary events held for Chávez, Maduro attended some of them in a jumpsuit although this was not the case for the state funeral and other events where national and international political figures were present. Also the pictures from Maduro and Cilia Flores’s wedding show him in a very casual attire for such an event, although his guayabera shirt is typical of the Latin American region for wedding guests. Furthermore, he has also tweeted personal pictures of him and his wife taking a walk, for example during a weekend and while we would expect a truly informal attire on his behalf he still wore a jumpsuit with official Venezuelan symbols.

Maduro is then a man that does not need to conform to mainstream social codes such as “appropriate” clothes for a head of state. But this is not to say that he will not use variations to his image for calculated purposes.