IIf you came of age in the mid-90s, there's a good chance your musical icons dressed like they put all of Burton's content through an overly aggressive loop. Indie bands wore shrunken suits, paired with ties so thin they almost looked two-dimensional. The overall effect conspired to make them look like sixth graders who had ditched the formal gear bought by their mothers. It was, we can certainly all agree, a dark time, sartorially speaking. So ask me this: why is our Prime Minister single-handedly trying to bring back this cursed trend?

When Rishi Sunak appeared on our collective radar in 2020 in his capacity as chancellor tasked with overseeing the Covid pandemic, his tailoring was widely praised. After all, it was a major departure from the chaotic, “dressed in the dark” aesthetic pioneered by then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a man whose home was covered in gold wallpaper but apparently didn't have a single full-length mirror. “Forget the budget – who is Rishi Sunak’s tailor?” gushed The Spectator. “Not since the days of Winston Churchill and, more recently, Michael Heseltine has a conservative politician looked so good at work,” he posited. HQ (Reading that sentence, Michael Portillo probably wiped away a tear, before returning to the serious work of cataloging his many rainbow-hued suits).

But gradually Sunak's trouser legs began to ride up, causing his fashion stock to plummet. In 2021, when he was photographed sitting on a sofa while Zooming with Gordon Ramsay, his hemlines rose so high that they practically reached mid-calf, making him look less like a high-profile politician, more like a kind of Victorian prince. of pantaloons. The following year, he wore a pair of Prada suede loafers to a construction site: They might have been fashionable, but they didn't exactly scream “in touch” (he later compensated by slipping on some heavy boots while delivering his “stop a message from the boats at Dover; his choice of footwear only led to inevitable “stop the boots” mockery on social media). Then, sitting in a chair during a visit to Jaguar Land Rover this summer, his pants became short again; the piece of cinnamon on display dominated his photo opportunity.

And now, he's back: when he got out of the Prime Minister's Audi to give evidence at the Covid Inquiry earlier this week, he ended up showing several inches of socks. At least when he was being interrogated, his short pants couldn't be seen (as could his pandemic WhatsApp messages). So why does the PM, who is one half of a couple rumored to be worth £529 million, dress like he's auditioning for a coveted spot on the NME Awards Tour circa 2005? Surely he can afford a few extra inches of fabric – and if he's having his suits custom made, why is the fit so unusual?

It's a conundrum that caught the attention of menswear expert Derek Guy, whose posts summarizing the good, the bad and the ugly of tailoring circulate regularly on Twitter/X. In an interview with The Guardian, Guy described the vibe of Sunak’s suit as characteristic of “guys in their forties who wore fashionable clothes 20 years ago”. Wild. There has also been much speculation that his penchant for short trousers has everything to do with creating an optical illusion, an attempt to make the 5ft 7in Sunak appear a little taller. If so, we can certainly all agree that the plan backfired: in fact, the shrunken suits in the wash only draw attention to his diminutive body, throwing his entire proportions off balance.

“I would say [the trousers are] a little too small, a little too thin, a little too short, compared to what we’re used to doing,” says the Savile Row-trained tailor. holly robins, specialized in making pants. The hem, she explains, “should always touch the front of the shoe”—a tucked-in pant “would be worn a little shorter, but again, the front would still kiss the shoe. You might get a small glimpse of the sock, but nothing compared to what [Sunak] is doing.” And “if he wants to look taller, he should wear high-waisted pants.”

I think Sunak is very, very purposeful

Nick Hems

But – call the fashion police – Sunak's style has its supporters. For male personal stylist and image coach Nick Hems, the PM is simply “more contemporary than classic with his suits.” He describes Sunak's aesthetic as “very minimalist but current”, noting that his wife, heiress and former fashion designer Akshata Murty, may have influenced his look. “I think Sunak is very, very purposeful. Everything fits the way he wants, [down] to the millimeter.” In other words, cropped pants are a carefully calibrated choice, and not the result of some confusion with the measuring tape.

Cropped: Sunak's shorter trouser legs are particularly visible when he sits (Getty Images)

The look, adds Hems, is reminiscent of “a slightly younger City boy” (a nostalgic throwback to Sunak’s days at Goldman Sachs, perhaps?). Robins agrees: “It's what we would consider more of a classic young city worker's uniform: that tailored navy blue suit,” she says. “Maybe it’s to make him look younger and more modern.” Sunak is believed to buy some of his suits from London tailor Henry Herbert, and earlier this year owner Alexander Dickinson told Night Pattern that “if you are a young person from the city, you are looking for something more cropped and thinner at the bottom” (the brand declined to comment on this piece). Sunak, suggests Hems, “wants to be seen as one of the guys too – someone who is hip and gets it”.

If you go to a city center pub after work, you'll probably find lots of exposed and slightly cold ankles à la Rishi. And when you turn on a program like Love Island, you'll find that these pedal proportions are inexplicably popular when it comes to casual clothing too, with the show's male contestants wearing jeans with cuffs that sit around their shins. Perhaps Sunak's strange silhouettes are just an attempt to tell us that, despite his multimillion-dollar fortune, he's just one of the boys. But I'm not entirely convinced that his efforts are fooling anyone.