It used to be that if a man wanted to make a statement that he was flamboyant at heart, though hemmed in by convention, he wore a mildly daring tie. Say reindeer at Christmas or golf images during the spring thaw.
Well, Justin Trudeau has just moved the yardsticks about five feet downward. First, at his swearing-in ceremony, he wore brown shoes with his royal blue suit. Then, to greet the provincial and territorial leaders, at their first such meeting in ten years, Trudeau sported, to ‘complement’ his dark navy blue suit and black shoes, red socks set off with a white maple leaf pattern. Though his shoes received tut tuts from the style police, the sock gambit made the front page of the papers and Trudeau earned plaudits for his insouciance. Of course, many of Trudeau’s top advisers come from the bunker of Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne’s, whence originated the red rubber boot, as a footwear initiative it is hardly a novel concept.
By wearing those white on red socks, Trudeau signalled that there is a new attitude at the top. Of course, when you are one of Vogue magazine’s newly crowned “10 unconventional alternatives to the sexiest man alive,” that’s a compliment, I think, you have an image to keep up. More than attitude, perhaps socks and, to a lesser extent, footwear are going to be part of the Trudeau communication code. Trudeau is telling us “read my socks.”
It’s interesting, for example, that he did not wear red, white and blue socks when he visited with the Queen. What kind of statement was he making? That he cares more about protocol for the monarchy than he does for the Canadian federation.
What is he going to wear on Canada Day? The same old maple leaf socks. At the very least, he is going to have to go with red leaves on a white background or socks bearing the likeness of a national icon, such as Stompin’ Tom Connors or Celine Dion.
Perhaps knitters across the country can rise to the challenge to create a new and appropriate pair of socks for Trudeau for every day he is prime minister. A pair of carbon neutral, zero footprint socks made for him to wear for the upcoming Paris climate summit, for example. A pair of black and white bamboo socks for the day he visits the panda cubs at the Toronto zoo.
What will Trudeau’s socks say for him as he ventures further afield? Let’s suppose that Trudeau meets with Russian president Vladimir Putin. The formal diplomatic note may say that the two leaders enjoyed a ‘‘full and frank exchange of views,” but if Trudeau were to wear mismatched socks to the encounter he would be telling the world “This guy may be a bit of a loose cannon, but you know what? So am I. He’d better think twice before he messes with Canada. Besides, he’s just some tin pot dictator for whom I couldn’t be bothered wearing matching socks.”
Perhaps, Trudeau, when he takes his family to meet the Obamas, in the New Year, can have the bunch of them wear official Mickey Mouse socks, you can snag a 3-pair pack on eBay for $7.95. These socks will acknowledge the so-called Disney clause in the TransPacific Partnership trade deal, which will keep Mickey out of the public domain for another 20 years.
Perhaps, if Trudeau were to meet Pope Francis, who by all accounts has a good sense of humour, why should he not sport some socks showing a person angling for a large bass. Trudeau can say, “You get to wear the shoes of the fisherman; so I get to wear the socks of the fisherman.”
With hindsight, it’s too bad for them that our failed party leaders didn’t twig to the concept of taking the sock gambit. Thomas Mulcair could have wowed the crowds by flashing his orange socks instead of going on about his balanced budget. Stephen Harper might have had to reach a little deeper into his gimmick closet to come up with a game changer - who knows, maybe no socks at all; but it would have been a better investment than making pretty with the Ford brothers.
What of Trudeau followers, what socks should they wear? Must his cabinet now show a little flair for the extravagant gesture, but not so much as to upstage the boss? Will finance minister Bill Morneau give his next news conference sporting a diamond-studded tie clip? Will indigenous affairs minister Carolyn Bennett make an announcement sporting multi-coloured leggings? There is obviously an acute need for a Liberal style guide. The last thing anyone wants is for someone like public safety minister Ralph Goodale to get the chop for wearing Bachman Turner Overdrive cufflinks in a misguided attempt to show some flair, only to find out he’s been sending a message that his fashion sense is so, well, yesterday.
See what you’ve started, Mr Trudeau?
Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.
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