Usually it’s quite easy dressing as Tony Abbott. You wake up, put on lycra shorts and those weird cycling T-shirts that make you look like a Wiggle, go for a ride, shower, put on suit, select a blue tie and go about your day.
What then was the vision that greeted us from Iraq? The prime minister – in a press conference that no media actually attended – was clad in a bulky, double-collared black leather jacket over a tight blue polo shirt.
Abbott’s polo shirt was pure normcore – the sort of thing dads down the ages have been gifted at birthdays by sensible spouses. But the jacket over the polo subverted that trend.
With lots of pockets and slightly puffy sleeves (yet curiously appearing as though it would be too tight to zip up) the jacket was East Berlin before the wall went down, it was Malcolm Turnbull on QA and before he lost weight, it was your “groovy” maths teacher supervising your year 10 formal, it was the Masters Apprentices reunion tour in the early 1990s.
But one can understand the thought process that went into this outfit.
Most politicians when they have to go casual choose the pastoralist look. It’s safe. It’s beige. There are no gasps and sniggers when they appear on television wearing it. Malcolm Fraser, an early adopter of this look, did it best: moleskin pants, chambray shirt with sleeves rolled to the elbows, brown leather belt and RM Williams boots.
But visiting the troops in Iraq would call for a carefully calibrated outfit. A jacket and polo shirt can look as though you’ve just stepped off a yacht, while a suit is too formal.
The leather jacket says casual, but tough. Who can forget how fabulous George W Bush looked in his leather bomber jacket? It was 2002 and Bush, against a backdrop of F-15 and F-16 fighter planes and a supersized American flag, made the case for increased military spending.
What does leather jacket-wearing Tony Abbott want? Who is he trying to be? And is this a look we will see repeated domestically, away from the theatres of war?