Will Doug Emhoff become a fashion icon like Michelle Obama? Fans say yes, but critics warn of gender politics

Fashion experts are not yet sure if Emhoff's fashion holds the same allure as a first or second lady's

                            Will Doug Emhoff become a fashion icon like Michelle Obama? Fans say yes, but critics warn of gender politics
Michelle Obama and Doug Emhoff (Getty Images)

With great power may come great responsibility, but not necessarily great fashion sense. And when there has never been a blueprint for how a Second Gentleman is supposed to dress as he stands beside the first female vice president of the United States (and the first woman of color to hold the office) people are curious to find out what Kamala Harris's husband, Doug Emhoff will be pulling out of his closet. 

Although Harris is yet to officially begin her term, there is already excitement among the members of the #DougHive - a fan club dedicated to discussing and swooning over Emhoff - when it comes to his future fashion choices. Although he has mostly been seen sporting dad-jeans and muted blue suits so far, one fan was eager to find out what brands he favored and if people were going to follow his style the same way as they did the former first lady Michelle Obama's. 

“I want to know what Doug wears when he’s jogging,” Patricia McKinney, a 61-year-old director of human resources and member of #DougHive told The Daily Beast. “What’s the brand? We all have our specific brands. Does Doug wear Ralph Lauren? It’s important to know that, because it gives you a sense of communication. If I see Doug in a Ralph Lauren shirt, and I recognize it, I might go out and buy one to be like Doug.”

However, the outlet was unable to find any men’s brands willing to go on the record about wanting to dress the second gentleman. One of the reasons could be because fashion experts are not yet sure if Emhoff's fashion holds the same allure as a second lady's. 

Emhoff not destined to be a fashion icon?

“I just don’t think we’ll have anything to talk about with him sartorially,” Evan Ross Katz, a fashion writer, said. “Fashion is such a window into who the first lady is, and with Michelle Obama larger conversations came out of what she wore. I just don’t think we’re going to see Doug wearing Supreme. I don’t think there will be any interest in dressing him at all.”

This also meant that he will probably be spared from all the fashion police criticisms that all first and second ladies in the past have been subjected to indiscriminately. “We can’t not talk about what Doug’s wearing without speaking about the gender politics of it all,” Katz added. “It goes to show you how misogyny rears its ugly head.”

The Second Gentleman and gender politics

The incredulity of the media being obsessed with Emhoff was pointed out by a 26-year-old queer woman from Portland, Oregon, who runs the popular meme account, @queeraioli. “Please let’s only give Doug fashion and sartorial media attention like all of the White House wives through history. A little sassy equity as a treat?” she wrote in one thread

“Isn’t femininity being applied to a cis-man. These memes are funny because they articulate a double-standard that non-men have been well aware of and speaking out against for centuries,” she explained. “The joke is the way society has viewed and talked about women and femmes. We’re not conditioned to criticize or even pay attention to normative men’s appearances to the extent we are conditioned to criticize and focus on how all women and gender-nonconforming folks look. A white, cis-heterosexual, upper-class male named Doug? He seems hilariously uninteresting and forgettable. I think a fashion magazine would be hard-pressed to write an intriguing article, which is why it’s so funny to try and create headlines about him.”

Kamala Harris (D-CA) and her husband Douglas Emhoff appear on stage after Harris delivered her acceptance speech on the third night of the Democratic National Convention from the Chase Center August 19, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware (Getty Images)

Doug cannot overshadow Kamala

Michael Sebastian, the editor-in-chief of Esquire, said that though he wants his team to cover Emhoff, the primary focus should always remain on his wife because of the position she holds in not only the White House but also in the pages of US history. “If you put too much focus on him, it would belie what he has done so much of a good job of in the first place, not taking attention from her,” Sebastian said. “In some ways, I have had to remind myself that Doug is there and we should be writing about him. Kamala is the much, much bigger story.”

However, Esquire is not opposed to covering Emhoff’s style, if he actually steps up his fashion game. “If you look at his style right now, he doesn’t wear anything bold and unusual,” Sebastian said. “He’s very much a lawyer dad. The only thing I have seen that’s stuck out, which I love, is when he wears the Kamala t-shirts with a blazer. That’s a very dad move, a middle-aged dad move, and he pulls it off well.”

Emhoff embodies Harris, literally

Kamala Harris  kisses her husband Douglas Emhoff  during the SF Pride Parade on June 30, 2019, in San Francisco (Getty Images)

Writing for Forward, the Jewish news outlet, Jenny Singer said, “Kamala Harris’ husband is our hot Jewish dad crush." A Marie Claire profile from October also dubbed him as an unassuming family man who is so devoted to his wife that he is almost always seen in public wearing nothing other than her campaign shirt for the last two years.

Sally Holmes, the editor-in-chief of Marie Claire, also noted Emhoff’s penchant for Wife Guy fashion. “It’s kind of fun that he supports his wife through his shirts,” Holmes said. “It’s meaningful. It’s something that shouldn’t be a headline, or shouldn’t be noteworthy, but unfortunately, it still is. I think it brings a lot of excitement back to this idea of covering political fashion.”  

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