TORONTO - As the Ontario election campaign enters the final stretch, image consultants take a look at the main three party leaders' styles and the statements they're making without uttering a word.
"They're all very representative of their parties, first and foremost, but also — and this is pleasant overall — they do represent themselves. And I feel that this is becoming more acceptable in the political arena now than it ever has been before," said Tamara Glick of Trademark Image Consulting.
While some may dismiss the relevance of outer appearance as superficial, a Toronto-based men's image consultant who has worked with politicians says presentation is a key part of the package.
"Humans judge each other. ... We naturally do that. We're also visual creatures,
said Leah Morrigan, principal at Leah Morrigan Image Consulting for Men.
"We get lots of information through our eyes, and once we do that, we make judgments on what we see."
Glick, Morrigan and Michelle Horne, president of Ottawa-based Putting It Together Image Consulting, weigh in on the hits and misses of campaign style.
Glick said she feels that stylistically, the Liberal leader has emerged as the frontrunner and has taken "more calculated risks" in her style choices as premier.
"She does have the elements of a suit, but she's expanding on the stylistic details of those suits to create a bit more personality and individualism in that look."
Horne noted that Wynne tends to embrace an array of shades.
"She tends to wear, I notice, sort of a broader spectrum of colour. There's a lot of strong colours that she wears and a lot of strong contrasts."
When she has a chance to showcase a bit more personal flair, she'll opt for colours like brick red and medium-range blues, Glick noted.
"More often than not, when she does (wear) colour, she does it as an accent or as a jacket — so the colour is coming closer to her face," she said. "We want the attention to be focused around her facial expressions, the words that she's using. So, to bring colour up to the face helps people to focus where they should be focused."
Morrigan said Wynne always appears professional with well-cut and well-fitted suits.
"She'll also add a fun scarf or something which adds a touch of whimsy. I like that because she's displaying her personality and she's not afraid to — and I think that says something about her as a person."
Morrigan also noted that Wynne is dressed appropriate regardless of the setting, whether it was the blue suit worn during the leaders' debate or the red jacket and matching rubber boots sported during a tractor ride in Paris, Ont.
"I think it's important to mirror their audience always," said Morrigan. "Consistency is important, yes, but they still need to be able to at least appear to be on the same level as the people that they're speaking with."
The consultants were divided when it came to Wynne's eyewear. Glick felt that the trendy two-tone frames suited Wynne's face and gave her an intellectual, modern look. Meanwhile, Horne saw the glasses as slightly distracting.
"I find it hard to get to her eyes because of her eyewear," said Horne. "It's strong on her — very strong. And I don't know if she needs that much strength in the eyewear because she has a strong look."
Morrigan said while she did like Hudak's suit choice for the recent leaders' debate, she noted that it's difficult to find photos of the Progressive Conservative leader in which he's not sporting one.
"There are a few shots that I've seen of him in khakis, a dress shirt or a sports shirt. He's fairly non-descript. He does not stand out."
Horne observed that Hudak usually opts for a button-down shirt when not wearing a jacket or tie which she described as "very classic and sporty."
Glick said she thinks Hudak is very representative of his party in his conservative mode of dress: a dark suit — typically black — teamed with a white or blue and white shirt. In casual wear, he'll typically team a dress shirt with chinos, she noted.
"The look is very consistent, but almost, I'd suggest a little too consistent as if he may not be sure what to wear in between, which, as an aside, is fairly typical of most professional men," said Glick.
"They lack the casual side of their wardrobe as most of their life is spent at work, so it could be symptomatic of that. But it could also be that this is strategized to be very consistent in his message throughout the campaign."
Morrigan noted that like Hudak, there aren't many photos she's seen of the New Democratic party leader not in suits. She also observed that Horwath wears lots of black, like she did during the leaders' debate, which "looks as though she's dressed to go to a funeral."
"Black tends to look flat and solid on camera, so she looks blocky and heavy in this suit."
For Glick, she sees Horwath's evolution stylistically as the greatest among the three party leaders.
"Her grooming in particular has evolved over time, and I think that that has really done a lot for her image impact overall," she said. "She has changed her hairstyle. It is a classic shape but it is always very well-groomed, it's always very shiny and styled nicely. The colour is very flattering, her makeup is present but not distracting. It's appropriate for her age and for her position.
"Overall, these things lend an air of polish, and I think that that's beneficial to her overall image."
Glick said Horwath has been at her best when she's chosen to wear non-traditional blouses under her suit jackets. However, there have been blouses she's worn untucked and in fabric types that "don't necessarily play to her best features," she noted.
Horne said Horwath has had images captured where she "looks really pulled together" in terms of her grooming and garments.
"In the more professional shots, she is in jackets, and she's not deviating much in colour. She's staying more in a conservative palette of colour moreso than Kathleen.
"I think there's definitely some congruency in that both Kathleen and Andrea, they aren't super-buttoned up people."