It makes sense that someone would wear red and someone would wear blue during a presidential debate. Looking back at previous debates, it's typically as you would expect, the Democrat is wearing a blue tie, and the Republican is wearing red. Every once in a while though, it's inexplicably reversed. The fact that it is reversed cannot be coincidental, the last time both candidates wore the same color (from what I can see) was the Bush-Kerry debate.

In these debates just about everything is chosen for a reason, why the (inverse) color coordination?

  • 3
    Why can't candidates wear whatever they want to wear? What does debating candidates' wearing any clothes have to do with politics? Are there any rules that you know? What makes you think it makes sense that someone would wear red and someone would wear blue during a presidential debate? Does it mean Clinton should have worn a tie?
    – Rathony
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 16:30
  • 1
    +1 I've actually noticed this too over the course of several election cycles and candidates and always wondered if there was reasoning behind it. Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 16:40
  • 3
    Everything is chosen for a reason, but that does not mean that everything has to be coordinated/agreed between the candidates. It makes sense to negotiate all of the common decissions (from moderator to the color of the background), but I cannot imagine Trump campaign manager discussing which earrings should Clinton wear, or the Clinton manager telling which are the valid hairstyles for Trump. Those things would be chosen by each candidate and their own PR team.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 11:22
  • 1
    @SJuan76 I can see those discussions happening. Both PR teams would be keenly interested in that.
    – user1530
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 21:21
  • 2
    Party colors weren't even a thing before the 2000 election, it became a thing because the broadcasting companies assigned colors to the parties/candidates. Note that in the 70s Democrats were associated with red because they were historically tied with the unions (although, not after Democrat Bill Clinton signed NAFTA) and other left-wing groups. Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 16:21

2 Answers 2


There are no "team colors" for Republicans and Democrats.
Red and blue are unofficial colors that were assigned by the press following the year 2000 election in which the electoral maps happened to have Democrats as blue and Republicans as red and in which the election dragged on long enough for that particular scheme to be remembered. The parties have not formally embraced the colors and if you watched the conventions you that both parties make heavy use of both colors.

The candidates wear the color they think will make them get the most votes. That decision is based on questions like does the tie make the candidate look young or old? dynamic or trustworthy? People make a lot of associations with color.

As an aside, to many of us old enough to remember the time before the 2000 election the use of red for Republicans and blue for Democrats can be very confusing. Red has long been associated with Socialism/Communism while blue was long associated with Conservatism.

  • You don't need to be "old enough" for that, you just need to be exposed to the rest of the world.
    – gerrit
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 13:05

Don't forget, Blue is both the colour of the Democrats, and of the office of the President of the United States. So in Bush/Kerry, Kerry wore his team colours and Bush wore his Office colours. Both appropriate. Both Blue.

On the other hand, when there is no incumbent, they tend to stick to their team colours when directly facing each other. On the other hand, if a Republican is campaigning in a Democratic state, they might wear a blue tie to appeal to swing voters. OR a neutral colour. Same for the Democrat in a Republican stronghold wearing a red or neutral to try to appeal to more people.

This time around, its a lessor issue of course as Clinton doesn't generally wear a necktie, but I haven't seen her wear much in the way of red scarves.

  • I've never heard the president = blue. What is that in reference to? Also how does a blue tie appeal specifically to swing voters? Is there data showing voters are swayed by tie colors?
    – user1530
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 20:43
  • 2
    The colours of the office of the president are absolutely blue - as is clearly illustrated on the flag of the office (blue background), the colour scheme of Air Force One, blue background of the seal of the office. It may not have official status, but the colour is absolutely associated with it. And no, I doubt anyone has ever been swayed by a tie, but image management is a huge part of campaigning and there are times (and elections) where showing yourself as less partisan is desired. Clothing choices are made carefully to appeal to the audience of the day - even if only subllminaly. Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 14:38
  • If no one has ever been swayed by a tie, then how, exactly, does tie color indicate 'less partisan'? I completely agree that image management is a huge important thing, but I really don't see evidence that tie colors are correlated to political parties in debates. At best, it seems random.
    – user1530
    Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 16:56

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .