In Politics, as in Life, Appearance Matters


One of the most popular articles on the Globe and Mail website today is a letter to Tom Mulcair from an NDP voter.

“Dear Mr. Mulcair: Lose the beard”

It’s the writer’s opinion that beards draw negative attention, suggest a “hipster look” and are nothing more than “overgrown facial hair” that will cost the NDP votes.

Full disclosure here: I wrote recently about Mulcair’s neatly trimmed beard as a positive asset.

But what’s most interesting are the readers’ comments about the Globe article.

Many thought it was pointless fluff and criticized both the writer and the paper for remarks about a leader’s appearance and focussing on his style over substance.

But, like it or not, appearance is one of the important ways we assess people — and not just for erotic engagement.

The first thing a physician does in an examination, whether it’s physical or mental, is check the patient’s appearance.

In the workplace — and the world of politics is one big workplace — appearance is a key determining factor.

“Like it or not, you are being judged by how you look, how you dress, and how you carry yourself—and, if you’re lucky, how you do your job.”

That’s an observation in Forbes magazine by business writer Ty Kiisel. The headline is unequivocal: “You Are Judged by Your Appearance.”
Kiisel goes on to cite published studies showing that:
– Tall people get paid more money
– Fat people get paid less
– Blondes get paid more
– Workers who workout get paid more
– Women who wear makeup make more
– Handsome people are paid handsomely

If you’re a woman who’s “exceptionally pretty,” you may face discrimination when applying to “masculine” jobs.

There’s another way we assess people, like it or not, intentionally or not.

“Always interview someone over food. You can tell so much about the person…” writes Bloomberg editor Tom Keene.

It’s true. Eating habits and table manners have been a deal-breaker in many relationships, both professional and intimate.

So here’s what I propose:

Instead of yet another useless debate that tells us nothing about who the candidates really are, I suggest a live broadcast of the leaders at a multi-course formal dinner.

That way, we can see for certain what they bring to the table.