PoliticsSpecial Reports

NYC Primary: The mayoral candidates and style votes

Maria Marino

Maria Marino, 47, sorts through the inventory of her small clothing store in Spanish Harlem. The candidates style influences her vote. Photo by Rajeev Dhir

It’s the final push as contenders for New York City’s top job put their best foot, and in some case, their best shoes forward to try and sway voters. But while they try to spark passion in the general public in the most critical hours, is the electorate really listening, or have New Yorkers been paying attention to more subtle cues?

Elijah Johnson met Christine Quinn while she was campaigning a few weeks ago.

“I didn’t like her shoes,” he said.

The 36-year-old retailer who lives and works in the Village said first impressions are all anyone has in a city like New York.

“Looks count and you have to look good to succeed,” he said.

Maria Marino runs La Moda Fashion in Spanish Harlem, selling clothing to women in the area for the last six years. The 47-year old entrepreneur notices two things about a person: their shoes and their pants. Looks, she said, helped influence her vote because she wants the person who invests in the issues and their appearance to represent her city, but she wouldn’t let on who gets her vote.

The way a person looks is important no matter what city you live in, according to Jami Crane, an image and style consultant who works with clients ranging from students to business professionals.

“Image and clothing are absolutely critical to consider during any election,” Crane said. She believes they may add to a person’s credibility and what they’re trying to impress upon the public.

But not everyone agrees. Chelsea resident Andrea Martens voted for the person she felt had the city’s best interests at heart. Even though looks don’t account much for her, the 24-year old said she wouldn’t be surprised if wardrobe and style played a part in the way people voted or how candidates presented themselves.

“It is New York City after all,” she said.

Jessica Proud, a media spokesperson for Joe Lhota’s campaign, said despite being a native New Yorker, Lhota’s image hasn’t changed in years.

“Joe likes to buy all his shirts from Costco,” she said. “He doesn’t like to get bogged down with expensive clothing.”

The creature of habit apparently even lays out his clothes the night before.

“He’s already got his suit and tie picked out for voting day,” Proud added with a laugh.

That’s something Me’chelle Turner,22, understands very well. The Spanish Harlem resident always knows what she’s going to wear before she leaves home.

“I care about the way I look, and I’ve been watching what the candidates are wearing,” she said before grunting the word suits.

“Even the gay one,” she added, referring to Christine Quinn, whose office didn’t return calls.

While wardrobe and appearance can play a key role in shaping any campaign, Crane believes they shouldn’t distract voters from a candidate’s message and platform, adding, “I am not sure it plays a stronger role in this election.”

That’s not necessarily true in Turner’s case. Even though it wasn’t Bill de Blasio’s own personal style that helped push her into his voting camp, the image of one of his relatives did – his son Dante’s.

“The afro got me,” she laughed.