Short of street-style peacocks and K-pop stars, no one embraces a bold accessory quite like political conventioneers. Over the years, their red- or blue-leaning fervor has been expressed via elaborate pins — like the fluffy sunflowers worn by Goldwater fans in 1964, or the floral brooch Eleanor Roosevelt wore to stump for Adlai Stevenson in 1956.
Then there are the hats, whether that’s a Nixon boater with an ear-splittingly loud, checkered tie (an homage to Tricky Dick’s canine companion?) or the Uncle Sam toppers worn by Dewey supporters in 1948. Not many people outside a convention center could pull off, for example, a flower-bedecked hat bearing an elephant that says “Nixon’s the One!” But that’s the charming thing about political fashion: its existence outside the strict world of fashion dictates, and its lack of moderation on either side of the aisle. These images truly capture a mood and a moment. There’s a world of difference between a petit bourgeois in an “I Like Ike” jacket and hippies in cutoffs protesting Nixon, though only two decades separate them — but both are proudly making their statement.
While most shown here are civilians, there are some recognizable faces in the crowd: Warren Beatty, arguably overdressed in a leisure suit, in 1976; Chelsea Clinton, wearing a headband and clinging to her dad, in 1992; and Coretta Scott King supporting Jimmy Carter, in 1976. Click through the slideshow to see a half century’s worth of unconventional convention style statements.
*A version of this article appears in the July 11, 2016 issue of New York Magazine.