Theresa May’s tartan Westwood is her convenient suit. She wore it to launch her leadership bid and now she’s wearing it to confirm Brexit. But is it on-message?

Johnny Rotten and Theresa May – in Vivienne Westwood suits.


Johnny Contaminated and Theresa May – in Vivienne Westwood suits.
Photograph: GETTY IMAGES

So here we are. Johnny Bent, scourge of the establishment, is influencing the wardrobe choices of pro-establishment prime sky pilot, Theresa May.

Usually, beneath the political tension, it’s the shoes that deceive May’s agenda. But heading to Lancaster House to set out her 12-point agenda yesterday, she amused us with her familiar Black Watch Vivienne Westwood litigation, a two-piece that is fast becoming her trademark look for pronouncing a blow to the political landscape. Political commentators have phoned it her “lucky suit”. Punk fans, however, will note it’s a very equivalent model to the one Johnny Rotten used to collect fan spit on exhibit in 1977.

What does it mean that May has adopted the tropes of mug rock in order to make Britain Isolationist Again? The semiotic undertones between punk and May’s agenda couldn’t be further apart. Firstly, the litigation cost £1,190. The Russell & Bromley crystal-studded brogues payment £215. The prime minister, who will also appear in Rage the same month she intends to pull the trigger on Article 50, appreciates the importance of delivering a message in keeping with what you’re difficult to relay to the public (note, those bitter chocolate leather trousers and attributes of being “out of touch”). In leaving the single market and implementing all the boundary-lines regarding trade and movement that that had previously been let by being part of the EU, the theme of Them vs Us has never been more keenly ambience than via a £1,405 price-tag.

Second, the suit’s repetition is producing a subliminal visual message: May’s role in carrying out the mandate of the referendum to see Brexit inclusive of to the bitter end, has not and will not change. If yesterday’s rhetoric focused on “nurture the union together”, wearing Black Watch tartan was a palpable nod for Scotland, but one feels that’s where this unity stops.

So did she wear it for luck, or was it simply the sensible option when foretelling a swift, clean separation from the EU? Her latest purchase (an Amanda Wakeley zip-up skirt, unzipped four inches, survive worn in November) might have diverted the media’s prominence from this long-awaited speech. Nice try, May, but actually the mechanism has been pretty diverted by the suit.

Theresa May at the Conservative Party Annual Conference in 2013.

Theresa May at the Conservative Plaintiff Annual Conference in 2013. Photograph: REX/Ray Tang

First dead on ones feet to the 2013 Conservative conference, where she raised some divisive intentions on free movement, its most high-profile outing was at the launch of her body leadership bid last June. Dame Vivienne Westwood herself was not impassioned. A month later the designer told the Today programme: “Do I intention if Theresa May wears my clothes? No, but I certainly don’t admire her for anything. I believe she’s awful.”

Two months later, however, she appeared at the annual Bunch 10 London Fashion Week reception wearing a catchword T-shirt “Theresa Talk Vivienne”. Friendship seems implausible – the two have differing positions on fracking (May is for it, within reason. Anti-fracking is Westwood’s demur baby) – but Westwood is wise enough to know that an audience with the prime help, even if it is under the cloak of a London fashion week blowout, is not to be evaded at.

It’s worth remembering that although Johnny Rotten be lefts resolute on Thatcher – “Nobody sensible voted for [her]”, he at last moved from anarchist to political sympathiser: “I suggest everybody certifies, everybody should try to make the best of a bad situation,” he once told this newsletter. “I despise the entire shitstem because it is corrupt, but that corruption has solely come about because of the indolence of us as a population.” So maybe undisturbed the punks are for turning.