The urban Mumbai voter's 'just-like-me' choice, Aaditya Thackeray
A soft corner for Mandarin collars and the willingness to head to a rally in an Adidas hoodie and tracks make Aaditya Thackeray the urban Mumbai voter's "just-like-me" choice
That he is the first Thackeray to contest and win an election since his grandfather Bal Thackeray founded the Shiv Sena in 1966 is getting Aaditya Thackeray as much street cred as his apolitical attire.
Perhaps, the spectacles are a good place to begin.
The 29-year-old's games with eyewear bring to mind Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau's sock diplomacy. Thackeray adjusts the style and shade of his glasses to match his mood and the occasion. And, just like Trudeau, it's telling of his newfound ability to understand the influence of image building that is in line with his position as a gen-next leader.
"'Who knows?' is what he said when I asked him how many pairs he owns. Although he has a Tom Ford and Armani for sure, his choices are dictated not by brands but personal preference. He likes Wayfarers and square frames. He has a high eye power, and can't see without them," says Rhea Bhandare with the familiarity afforded to her by a decade-long friendship with Thackeray. The young entrepreneur belongs to the Bhandare Eyecare family, where she also retails her own line of frames, RBee, which we hear Thackeray is a fan of, and also brand ambassador.
In an Adidas hoodie at Ramesh Latke's rally
In an era of personality politics, the urban Indian voter at least, cares about how his/her leader is turned out. Does he dress like us? Would we hang out with him?
"There is a definite sense of Mumbai-ness to his clothing, which makes him instantly likeable and relatable," says designer Nachiket Barve. Much of this young leader's sartorial success is his ability to control multiple variables, at once. He understands the powerful privilege of being heir to the saffron party founded on exacting values and image, but also offers an airbrushed antidote to the clichéd neta white kurta-pyjama wardrobe template. Instead, he freshens it up with a casual Friday wardrobe of shirts, jeans, slip-ons, and a Fitbit. "Fitness is very much part of his routine. I've often seen him pace up and down because he has to meet his daily 10,000 steps routine," says actor and close friend Sammir Dattani. "He never overindulges in food. He is very particular about the way he looks; takes care of himself and goes for regular pedicures and manicures. His hair is always neatly cropped and gelled," adds Bhandare.
Cardigan and shirt for a screening at YB Chavan. Pic/ Ashish Raje
A large share of this "likeability" is based on the way he shuffles the virtues of practical dressing with tweaks, but not too much to distract from his day job. An athleisure hoodie and track pants worked for a rally in Andheri East that he attended for Sena candidate Ramesh Latke last month in the run-up to the state elections. When he is meeting Prince Charles for a meet-and-greet, he chooses a black tux. It's an Armani Exchange shirt for a film screening, and a boardroom blue checkered shirt to interact with BMC officials. Variety is part of his millennial appeal.
In a tux to meet Prince Charles
He is invested in the wholesome Mumbai image but won't try too hard by hiring a personal stylist. A regular online shopper, Thackeray is believed to order T-shirts from The Souled Store and March Tee, and prefers his tailored shirts from Burberry, Ralph Lauren and Armani. "He is very fond of Chinese collars. Adi is not your typical politician, he is really like the average young Mumbaikar who loves to try out different looks. My wife [Ritika Jolly] is also a stylist, and she frequently shares her feedback with him. Most of the time, she goes, 'Adi, what have you worn!'" says Dattani.
Tee and jeans at Pali Village Cafe
Political analyst for 25 years, Prakash Bal Joshi has tracked the journey of the Thackerays since Sena's inception, and thinks the young scion is changing the face of the party's politics. "Aaditya is connected to the urban English-speaking, western-clothes wearing Mumbaikar even as he remains rooted in the Sena ideology. He is one of them and shares their aspirations, issues and language."
In a white kurta-pyjama at the Sena's 53rd Foundation Day. Pic/ Rane Ashish
Thackeray seems to understand better than his contemporaries how to adapt old ideas of political marketing to the new realities of India, which is in love with all things digital. It is his candid posts on Twitter (1.8million followers) and Instagram (175K followers) where he voices political and social opinion and mixes it up with cheeky selfies.
A silk kurta for a Ganesh Chaturthi celebration at the Ambani residence. Pic/ Satej Shinde
"It is funny, but when you help someone, you feel like Batman. That feeling has got into me," Thackeray had told Outlook magazine in 2013 while speaking about his political ambition. Does 'Gotham' Mumbai need a superhero dressed in a Mandarin-collared shirt?
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