There are many ways a politician can stand out from a crowd.
One can proclaim a bold idea, make strong statements, take a contrarian position on a major issue, or act differently from your competitors.
Coun. Les Barkman could already probably tick one or two of those boxes. But over the last month-and-a-half, he received plenty of comments for another eye-catching part of his campaign: his shirt.
If you’ve seen it already, you’ll know what we’re talking about.
The Shirt is a long-sleeved buttoned-up garment. It’s shiny. It’s got funky, swirly lines that loop and dive, make shapes, change colours and separate. And it’s colourful. Oh, is it colourful.
Rainbowish, without quite being a rainbow, The Shirt is home to the brightest, most-tropical versions of green, yellow, orange, magenta (?!) and purple, all fading into one another.
As an incumbent running in a race that favoured returnees, Barkman probably didn’t need the shirt to win. But it clearly didn’t hurt him as he cruised towards his highest vote total ever – an improvement of more than 5,000 from 2014, a year in which he finished second among all council hopefuls.
The Shirt came from New York, which Barkman and his wife visited earlier this year after winning a pair of tickets from WestJet. While in the Big Apple, he stopped in at Portabellas Menswear, a prominent, but not overly expensive, store with an owner beloved by baseball players. After crossing the Canadian border, the $69 (USD) garment mostly stayed in Barkman’s closet until election time, when the incumbent councillor and his wife assembled a handful of outfits before a photo session with Andrew Simpson.
“Andrew’s wife said, ‘Whoa! That’s going to get you [noticed],’ ” said Barkman.
While you may not expect The Shirt to adorn the torso of a large grey-bearded guy with a blue-collar work background, Barkman – who also previously worked in a menswear store – said he isn’t one to be shy about wearing bold shirts.
And he said the fashion ambition plan paid off.
“People would smile at me and give me the thumbs up,” he said. “My neighbour said, ‘My daughter wants to vote for you because of your shirt.’ ”
Indeed, two days after the election, Barkman was already thinking to the future and the next election.
“Look out next time for what I’ll be wearing,” he said.