Justin Trudeau and the Case of the ‘Star Wars’ Socks
The same day that President Trump hosted the Australian prime minister in New York aboard the decommissioned aircraft carrier Intrepid, a political meeting of a different sort took place farther north.
I am talking, of course, about the sit-down on Thursday between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and Prime Minister Enda Kenny of Ireland. And though you might think it was what Melania Trump wore to the black-tie dinner on the Intrepid that should have made sartorial waves (it was a yellow one-shouldered Dior, for the record), in fact, it was Mr. Trudeau’s outfit in Montreal that got everyone talking.
Specifically, his socks. Specifically, his mismatched “Star Wars” socks, one in blue and gray with R2D2 and the other in gold and black depicting C3PO. They were impossible to miss set against his dark suit, white shirt, and red tie.
And they demonstrated that while Mrs. Trump may be a tentative player in the sartorial diplomacy game — her dress was at least close to one of Australia’s national colors, though it was not by an Australian or American designer — Mr. Trudeau seems to understand as well as any of his peers that what you wear is a political tool, and a leader would be remiss not to use it in every way possible.
Which brings us back to the meaning of his socks.
May 4, after all, was not just the day of his summit meeting with Mr. Kenny, but also International Star Wars Day — a.k.a. #MayTheFourthBeWithYou, a.k.a. the day that thousands of “Star Wars” acolytes from around the world indulge their inner fan-geek, dress up like Jedis and announce to everyone in sight, “May the force be with you,” a now-classic line from the movie franchise.
So, while Mr. Trudeau’s choice of ankle wear may not have been meant to underscore his position on Irish-Canadian relations or a new trade deal with the European Union (the subjects of his meeting with Mr. Kenny), they absolutely signaled his membership in the group of unabashed pop culture fans.
Indeed, he posted a picture of the socks on his Twitter account with the words, “These are the socks you are looking for.” That’s another “Star Wars” reference, of course. As of Friday morning, the post had been liked more than 22,000 times.
The socks served to reinforce Mr. Trudeau’s image as a new-gen world leader: one plugged into the zeitgeist and unafraid to shed, or even poke fun at, some of the trappings of office. One who understands the concerns of much of the electorate. There’s nothing like bonding over a mass-movie phenomenon to convince a swath of voters that you share their value system.
Like Mr. Trudeau’s tattoo, his occasional shirtless photograph and his appearance on the cover of a comic book, the socks humanized him and communicated to anyone who saw the photograph of the two politicians in their giant leather wingbacks that, while Mr. Trudeau may occupy the executive chair, he is made in a different mode: politically and personally.
Indeed, almost immediately, the Twittersphere exploded with excitement.
Male politicians have been using their ties as talking points for decades — if you doubt this, consider that I once asked a friend who was a political fixer and who had worked on many campaigns in North and South America if candidates really spent as much time thinking about their ties as I thought they did.
He replied: “I cannot tell you the hours I have spent discussing tie color when we could have been discussing the peace accords.”
But this is the first time in recent years I can remember socks coming into play. Clearly, it’s a potentially effective accessory that has been overlooked. Perhaps it’s time we all start paying attention.