Canvassing is a lot like blind-speed dating, with the implied civility taken off the table. Each door is a potential love in, or a dead-end trying to sell yourself to someone whose hostility is not aimed at you, but you are nevertheless the perfect conduit to say everything one would otherwise be yelling at the television during Question Time. Also, people will more or less decide if they are interested in you within a few seconds. In other words, it is not for the faint-hearted, as Johnny Mercer recently found out while in Plymouth when a constituent told him how “I hate Johnny Mercer”, unaware that he was addressing said MP.
Mercer has of late had a little bit of a turnaround, stylistically. For a former army officer, he has been surprisingly slovenly in his dress but recently his suits have taken a turn for the better and he has appeared slimmer, taller and the structured shoulders are much more flattering on such a stocky guy. There is still work to be done however and it has much to do with the cold-weather outfits he chooses while on his walkabouts.
The practicality is there, well-insulated clothing, good out-of-office ensembles that have a more relatable vibe, good for a day’s hobnobbing in the cold and rain. But a little flair couldn’t go amiss and it got me thinking that canvassing is a missed opportunity to dress up. So if you’re planning on leafleting over the final days before the election, here is how to make the most of it.
Your feet will take on the bulk of the physical stress and need looking after. Though they will give by far the most protection, trainers should be avoided unless they are the sort of smart sneakers that brands like Common projects or Berluti have mastered during the recent “sports lux” evolution. The Grenson tan version is probably the best value-and-aesthetic mix. The best alternative to provide support and appropriate formality is a boot. Look at the Harlech Boot by Crockett & Jones, or the Galway Utah by Edward Green. These will give the support needed for long periods on your feet but with a wide-legged trouser, will show up just like a capped-toed Derby.
The holy grail for coats is one that keeps you all manner of cosy and dry, but not like you’re about to scale something in Nepal. The problem with bulky puffer jackets is that they aren’t elegant, however practical they may be in inclement weather. The Mercer gilet is actually a very good effort, and is a bit more statesmanly than the blue hooded snuggy that he also wears. If he were to go for something like the Goteborg zipped coat from Grenfell, with bellows pockets that look ideal for stashing endless Johnny for Plymouth flyers, his detractors would be hard-pressed to be so negative.
Call me antediluvian, but I think canvassing should be done in a shirt, though I appreciate there are limits and, albeit against my better judgement, I accept that people won’t go for a stiff collar and club – or in Johnny’s case, regimental – tie. A button-down Oxford from Ralph Lauren or a blue brushed cotton number from any of the Jermyn Street shirtmakers will suffice, and lend some implied deference to the matter at hand.
There is an unwritten rule (of mine) that you can’t, as a man, wear jeans after 35 unless you have a particularly nice bottom and well-proportioned waist and thighs. David Gandypants can wear them all he likes, but all men go through ‘structural reinforcement’ as we get older and it is not particularly flattering to have flappy jeans with material all over the place. Even worse when worn with no belt and ill-advised footwear.
The return of the pleated trouser should come as a relief to men, not as a challeng. Flat-fronted trousers are restrictive which is not ideal when pacing up and down streets all day. The best thing to get is something like the Manny trousers from Rubinacci, which use ‘Gurkha’ straps for fastening, or perhaps a pair of cosy flannels which as they are made out of wool, are naturally wind and rain resistant.