Exactly How Many Times Did Presidential Candidates Wear That Almost Identical Sweater?

You won’t believe how long it took me to count!

Presidential campaign fashion, as it turns out, is far more complex than Marco Rubio’s boots or Ben Carson’s need for fresh clothing.

Oh wait, never mind. That’s a preposterous thing to say!

Presidential campaign fashion is totally not complicated. As many style experts have noted, presidential candidates just keep wearing the same identical zip-front SWEATER.

As the Washington Post’s Robin Givhan noted in her perfectly timed January story, “They are not all wearing the exact same sweater — but they might as well be.” The Daily Mail and Business Insider have also noted the Z-FS trend.


But exactly how many times did the Republican and Democratic candidates for president worn these almost identical zip-front sweaters? The answer won’t surprise you!

The answer is 188.

I know it’s 188, because I counted.

That is, I found 188 appearances of the candidates in Z-FSs, from August 2015 through early February 2016. Just on their official Twitter pages. It took two days to count, which was about two days longer than I expected.

Just in case you don’t believe me, I made this giant and scary photo collage!

All photos via the candidates’ official campaign Twitter accounts. Giant and scary photo collage made with Photovisi. And now I have to go scrub my eyeballs.

Honestly, there were probably more, but looking at campaign tweets made my heart hurt. Basically, if the candidates weren’t wearing a suit or trying to win the endorsement of a Duck Dynasty cast member, they are wearing some variety of a Z-FS. Even during snowball fights.


Jeb Bush first made waves for apparently wearing the same Z-FS for days, like he was one of those guys at my high school who wore the same shirt for a week to see if anyone would actually notice. (We did notice, both with former Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush and with the Greenwood High School Senior Boys in 4th Period Calculus, Class of ‘02.)

But Jeb was not alone in his affinity for active wear, as the very serious analysis below demonstrates.


We seemed to reach peak Z-FS at two points in the primary campaign season: (1) right before Christmas (December 22 and 23 saw 11 Z-FS appearances each) and (2) in the week between the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries (February 3 and 4 saw 10 Z-FSs apiece).

For purposes of this analysis, we excluded un-zipped, cardigan-style sweaters (this was mainly a Kasich problem), as well as sweaters that contained no zipper, such as this remarkable choice by Marco Rubio.

Jeb Bush and John Kasich were the all-time leaders in mistaking the campaign trail for a hiking trail, but Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz also got in the fleece game. Notably, Cruz’s Twitter page featured zero Z-FSs in 2015 but saw a Z-FS surge between February 1 and February 4 (when 22 pictures of Cruz in a Z-FS were posted, by my super official count).

John Kasich also once wore a Z-FS layered over another Z-FS. My super serious coding system had no way to account for this anomaly, so the instance was counted as a single Z-FS incident. Also, one incident of a Marco Rubio Z-FS was actually a photo of his wife and children in Z-FSs. Although atypical, this photo was added to the Rubio count.

Obviously, weather played a role in the Z-FS surge, as candidates who lasted until the winter clearly out-Z-FSed the candidates who dropped out in the fall.

But even Rand Paul, who’s really more of a turtleneck man than anything else, occasionally popped up in a Z-FS. Like Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz, Paul also flirted occasionally with the zip-front vest, a gateway to the the full -sleeved Z-FS. (Eighteen of the 188 pictures displayed the Z-FS in vest form, or Z-FSV. But of these 18, 11 were from of Rand Paul.)

Note: I found no pictures of Donald Trump is anything less formal than a suit or blazer, and how dare you even ask such a question!

Additionally, this analysis revealed that candidates preferred their Z-FSs in black, grey, or blue. And 29% of the sweaters featured a full zipper while the remaining 71% had a half-zip or even quarter-zip.

Finally, it might be tempting to associate Z-FS frequency with poll performance, especially considering the recent demise of all-time Z-FS leader Jeb Bush’s campaign. However, the figure below shows only a weak (possibly curvilinear) correlation between electoral performance in Iowa/New Hampshire and Z-FS appearances (in the 10 days prior to the Iowa caucus or New Hampshire primary). Cruz did worse when he upped his Z-FS game, but Bush and Kasich did better after a slight uptick in Z-FS photos between Iowa and New Hampshire.

And nothing else could possibly explain electoral success and failure here, except Z-FS appearances. There are no other possible variables.

It’s very likely that I might have actually overlooked additional appearances of Z-FSs, as this analysis only covered pictures and videos posted to the candidates’ official Twitter pages. Plus, I rolled my eyes so many times that I probably missed quite a bit.

But if I did miss any, I’m not sure I want to know. Looking at months of campaign tweets from the two parties’ candidates made my heart sad, so I’m going to cry into a basket of puppies or something and try not to think about what would happen if a woman candidate wore casual clothing this frequently.

Even here, Obama and Biden are in casual wear and Clinton is wearing PEARLS! Image via Giphy

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