Eric Adams style: “Everything about you must be powerful”

Six years ago Eric Adams, then Brooklyn Borough President, was on stage at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn and thundered his early advice to future graduates.

He urged them to “reach for the stars”. “You are lions,” he told them. They should always be like, “I am possible.

But, he warned them, while you are doing all of this, remember, “When you play where the big boys and the big girls play, whatever you do, people are watching. “

“People watch your presentation before they take you seriously,” he said. “Everything about you must say power. “

On the first Tuesday in November, as he stepped onto a podium in Brooklyn to declare victory in the New York City Hall contest, becoming the second black mayor in city history and head of the electric playground, Mr. Adams explained exactly what that meant – as he’s been doing since he began his ascent to Gracie Mansion. His white shirt was so immaculate it practically shone; his collar open; his cufflinks closed.

“Whether he speaks or not, he always says something with his robe,” said George Arzt, a Democratic political consultant who was also Ed Koch’s press secretary. “And it’s, ‘I’m here. I am in charge. I mean business.

It is unusual for city politicians to engage in imaging issues. More often than not, they actively avoid personal discussions about dress, believing that this makes them frivolous or elitist. If they connect with the fashion world, it’s usually as an economic engine of the city or the clothing district: Michael Bloomberg hands Ralph Lauren a key to the city for investing millions in new stores ; Bill de Blasio welcomes the industry to Gracie Mansion ahead of Fashion Week. This is usually just business.

Not for Mr. Adams.

As he proved when he wore a bright red blazer to a Hamptons fundraiser in August, or displayed a photo of him in a new tower with the city’s skyscrapers sprawling at his feet, his aviators reflecting the beams and the glow of the building, he’s more than willing to use his clothes to stand out.

And as the 61-year-old assumes his role as the spirit – and face – of the city, a chaotic amalgamation of identities, politics, issues and possibilities, at a time when New York is still recovering from its doldrums. ‘a Covid-19 induces economic and spiritual nadir and after the social justice protests of 2020, he will become one of the most visible men in the metropolitan region. He can suffer this, or he can use it for his own ends.

“He manages to appeal to a lot of different people with a lot of different expectations,” said Nancy Deihl, chair of the art department at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University. “He really dresses for that. It is a strategic deployment of clothing that goes well beyond the policy of respectability in what one might call the policy of charisma.

He is, said Arzt, a mayor “for the visual age”.

There are still questions about Mr. Adams’ specific plans for New York and how he intends to carry them out, but in this area at least, he’s always been absolutely clear: what you mean. It has meaning and importance. And throughout his career, he’s crafted his own presentation to bring communities and interest groups together, to assert his place in the room – and beyond.

A little over ten years ago, when Mr. Adams was a senator for the state of Albany, he actually orchestrated a campaign featuring clothing.

The goal was not to run for office, but rather to get the men in his riding to stop wearing pants that seemed to slip over their underwear. Complete with posters and a video, it was called “Stop the Sag”.

“You can increase your level of respect if you lift your pants up,” Adams said in the video, wearing, according to the New York Times, “a gray suit, a green tie and a white pocket square” and framing the pants down. . in contrast, as participating in – and helping to perpetuate – a continuum of offensive racial stereotypes that stretched from Aunt Jemima to minstrel performers.

As to why it all mattered, he told the newspaper, “The first indicator that your child is having trouble is the dress code.”

In the end, he said, “It’s all in the clothes.

Since then, clothing has played a key role in much of his public storytelling, where he uses them as a sort of universal shortcut, a shared language that almost anyone can understand. Reciting his personal account, for example, he described bringing a garbage bag of clothes to school in case his family was evicted while he was away (clothes as a symbol of homelessness). Commemorating his 22-year career as a police officer in his Twitter biography, he wrote, “I wore a bulletproof vest to ensure the safety of my neighbors” (clothing as a symbol of the positive side of law enforcement). Dramatizing a lesson in life, he told a seemingly borrowed story about confronting a rude neighbor who ignored him until he donned a hoodie (clothing symbolizing racial prejudice and threat).

And celebrating his electoral victory, he declared: “Today, we take off the intramural jersey, and we put on only one jersey: Team New York” (clothing as a symbol of unity).

“He clearly knows a lot more about the subject than the average politician,” Alan Flusser, a New York tailor and author of “Clothes and the Man,” said of Mr. Adams. As to how he learned it, Mr Adams said his role model growing up was his uncle, Paul Watts, a tank top who always wore “a hat, a well-ironed suit and waxed shoes”, as well as his local pastors – although he took their lessons and made them entirely his own.

According to Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, member of the state assembly and president of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, “Eric’s style has evolved along with his career” – from a police officer with a full-length uniform to chairman of the borough of Brooklyn with a quasi-uniform in the form of his post. official nylon jacket to today.

Now Ms Hermelyn said, “He projects New York City as the capital of the world through his wardrobe. But he also says he grew up on these streets.

Indeed, there are a number of stories built into Mr. Adams’ current shirts, suits and accessories.

Mr Adams had his ear pierced in July after winning the Democratic primary because, he said, he had met a young man during the campaign who expressed doubts whether politicians would hold their promises. When Mr Adams asked what he could do to prove him wrong, the young voter said he could agree to have his ear pierced if he wins – and then follow through.

“Day 1, keep my promises,” Mr. Adams said in a video of the experience. Now he wears a diamond, a flashing symbol of his commitment. But also an effective counterpoint to his perfectly fitted suits, an often carefully remodeled button to smooth the line, which both announces his physical form (which is famous in part by going vegan after a diagnosis of diabetes) and places him squarely in. the tradition of Wall Street power brokers.

“He wears clothes in a modern way,” said Mr Flusser – close to the body, in the vein of Daniel Craig as James Bond, often without a tie – “but with classic flourishes of the past: collared shirts. cut, pouches. Details, said Flusser, “identified with the highfliers”.

Indeed, Mr. Adams is so detail-oriented in his dress that his decision to largely ditch the tie (except during debates, where he favored a four-handed knot with a central dimple) was clearly deliberate, another clue. visual that plugged him into the evolution of modern male dress code. Also noteworthy is the “energetic stone bracelet” he wears on his right wrist, made up of stones from Asia and Africa offered to him by his supporters, and his propensity to wear a white shirt.

“The white shirt is a really powerful image,” NYU’s Ms. Deihl said. “It conveys impeccability, crispness and motto.”

Together, she said, it all claims a visual genealogy that spans from Representative Adam Clayton Powell Jr. to President Barack Obama, whom black aviator Ray-Bans M. Adams has adopted.

“After seeing President Obama wearing a similar pair, I decided I needed them to look cool – Obama cool,” he told the New York Magazine strategist. (Other favorite brands include Florsheim Berkley loafers, Joseph Abboud chinos bought from Men’s Wearhouse, and Century 21 shirts.)

Since clothing is the unwritten, unwritten way of signaling to the world our belonging to a group, be it caste, class or profession, this particular collection of styles and names offers a mix of associations that allow to Mr. Adams to be a master of the universe, a new generation executive, a representative of the welfare contingent and the smart local on the street, all at the same time. It’s a balancing act that pushes the buttons that reflects both its politics and its chameleon ambitions. For himself and his new role.

“Part of the challenge here is perceptual – that New York is in decline, that it is not healthy, that it is not sure,” said Evan Thies, one of Mr. Adams’ senior advisers. . He noted that Mr. Adams “associates dress with confidence” – in himself and now, by transfer, in his city.

His work changes that impression. If he can do it not only through politics but (at least to begin with) through the force of the image – the “broken window” theory made personal, all the wrinkles ironed out – he may not only have won the election, Thies said, but “half the game”.

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