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Do people dress according to their politics? YouGov found millennial Democrats are more interested in fashion and are more diverse dressers than Republicans

With only 20% of millennials identifying with the GOP, being a young Republican has never been quite so unfashionable. But following fashion has never really trended with those leaning right. Pearls, blazers and super-straight hair for the young ladies; sweater vests, chinos and helmet hair for the gentlemen. You could call it GOPcore: a fashion-backward uniform of uniformity.

But are these just stereotypes, or do young people really dress differently based on their political affiliation? We asked YouGov, a global research company, to look into whether the statistics support the stereotypes. And we found that they do. While both young Democrats (YDs) and young Republicans (YRs) channel their politics into their wardrobes to some extent, Republican values make a far more obvious sartorial statement.

Young Trump supporters at Liberty University in Virginia. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

YouGov analyzed survey responses collected from a panel of more than 200,000 Americans and found that millennials who identify as Democrats are more interested in fashion and are more diverse in their dress sense than their Republican counterparts. They also spend more money on clothes and have bought more categories of clothing recently than millennial Republicans. Further, YDs are more likely to say they follow the latest trends and fashion while YRs are more likely to say they tend to stick to classic items that are timeless rather than go for whatever is in-fashion.

So, what timeless classics are hanging in conservative closets? According to the data its an unsurprising cast, including Brooks Brothers, LL Bean, Clarks, Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch and Herms. Theyre also more likely to buy from budget labels such as Wet Seal and Walmart-brand Faded Glory. In another parallel with the GOP, Wet Seal has been struggling to stay relevant with the young lately, closing almost two-thirds of its stores last year. As for Faded Glory: insert your own joke here.

Brands most often purchased by young Democrats and young Republicans

While millennial Republicans go for classics, millennial Democrats are more likely to buy contemporary clothing brands such as American Apparel, H&M, Uniqlo and Vans, as well as more alternative labels such as Hot Topic. Theyre also more likely to buy Calvin Klein, whose recent super-sexualized #mycalvins campaign had a lot of people clutching their pearls. If youre reading the Guardian, odds are youre wearing one of those labels right now.

What does all this mean? Commenting over email, Ted Marzilli, CEO of BrandIndex at YouGov, said: Peoples core values are often reflected in the brands that they wear. For example, Uniqlo is known for being collaborative and relaxed classic but a little edgy. Brooks Brothers by contrast is more traditional and appeals to those who associate themselves with upper-middle-class America and American heritage.

Dr Anna Akbari, founder of Sociology of Style, says its not really surprising that people dress according to their politics. The way we dress is the fastest, easiest, most frequently presented outlet for people to understand who we are [and] how to treat us, she said over the phone.

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump at the US Open. Photograph: Team GT/GC Images

I think both political persuasions have a tribalistic quality, but its easier to spot Republican values in action, Akbari added. If you think about how traditionalism would manifest itself sartorially, its not surprising that its in something thats preppy, that doesnt change that much, and that isnt that open to personal expression. It might be easier to spot Republican tribalism because the Democratic one allows more for more diversity.

What do millennial Republicans think about all this? I asked a few (12 to be exact a mixture of friends of friends and members of Young Republican groups), and the majority seemed happy to agree that they dressed in a more formal, preppy and uniform way than peers of other political persuasions. If you look at any of our photos, everyone kind of looks the same, it doesnt matter if youre African American or if youre from the Orient or Asia, said Matt McCarrick, 30, campaign chairman for the New York State Young Republicans. Our pictures kind of speak for themselves. I guess if the classically tailored shoe fits

So, are YRs consciously, um, Orienting their clothes to their values? I think we try to buy more American than foreign, McCarrick says. And indeed, except for Herms and Clarks, all the clothing brands they over-index against are American and strongly brand themselves as such Under Armour has a Country Pride collection, for example.

While YRs may like to wear their patriotism on their sleeves, their conservative dress sense isnt necessarily a straightforward reflection of Republican conservative values. Indeed, Maria Gershuni, 21, deputy chairwoman of the New York Federation of Republicans, is keen to stress that when it comes to many social values, millennial Republicans arent much different from young Democrats. Young Republicans are really pro-LGBTQ rights, for example.

Instead of being the embodiment of conservative views, Gershuni believes that the way we dress is a stability thing. A way to give yourself authority and be taken more seriously. She explains this is particularly helpful at a time when a majority of young people skew left, meaning young Republicans can feel like a minority.

Polo golf shirts by Ralph Lauren at the New York Golf Center. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

There does, indeed, seem to be a strong feeling among millennial conservatives that they are outnumbered and often misunderstood. Karin Agness, founder of the Network of enlightened Women, is trying to change that with #ShesConservative, a social media campaign that aims to shatter stereotypes about young Republicans. The campaign video features sad music as conservative young women, dressed in pearls and blazers, say solemnly and seemingly unironically to the camera, this is what a conservative looks like. Unfortunately Im not sure the video will have quite the rebranding effort thats intended. Indeed, you almost expect to see brought to you by Tory Burch, Ralph Lauren and LL Bean in the closing credits.

Methodology: YouGov analyzed a database of over 200,000 Americans to identify clothing brands that significantly over-indexed with either millennial Republicans or millennial Democrats. This was based on data showing apparel brands people reported they were more likely to buy as well as apparel brands people had actually bought in the past three months.

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