Body Language Expert Tells Us Why Ron DeSantis' Viral Boots Clash With His Image

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stepped into the national spotlight through his controversial policies on everything from immigration to education, and that spotlight became only brighter when he announced his run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Though he dropped out of the race in late January 2024 and feigned enthusiasm while endorsing Donald Trump, plenty of attention continues to be paid to the man and his persona.

Cultivating an image is an essential part of the game for any politician playing on the national stage, and while DeSantis generally sought to portray himself as a staunch conservative and family man, public focus fell to a rather odd place: his footwear. While at first glance his subdued, dressy cowboy boots may have appeared to fit the image of the southern, down-to-earth conservative DeSantis presents himself as being, a persistent rumor that he wears lifts inside those boots to give him extra height has been impossible for him to shake, making his fashion choices an internet joke

While DeSantis denied these claims, the story continued to circulate, with publications like Politico going so far as to interview three shoemakers who all said that, based on what they know about the type of boots DeSantis wears, he was probably wearing lifts. Now, we have reached out to an expert of our own, Jess Ponce III, who specializes in body language and communication. Ponce feels that DeSantis' boots, regardless of whether they have lifts in them, clash with the image he has worked hard to cultivate.      

Why the boots don't fit

Jess Ponce III, body language expert, communications coach, and author of the book "A.W.E.S.O.M.E.: Seven Keys to Unlocking the Speaker Within," discussed with The List why the signature boots that Ron DeSantis became known for actually worked to undermine the specific image that the former presidential candidate worked so hard to cultivate. Ponce explained that, when it comes to the way we communicate and present ourselves, "If something doesn't feel right or 'fit,' people will notice, leading to distractions that may hinder your ability to connect with your audience. Conversely, when everything works together — your eyes, gestures, tone, and clothes — audiences won't notice any discrepancies, resulting in a more engaging experience." 

When it comes to choosing shoes, Ponce says that the best choice for someone trying to engage meaningfully with an audience would be "Comfortable ones. Shoes that provide support and make you feel empowered." Further, Ponce explains that "Clothes, including shoes, play a role in crafting image. Shoes ideally shouldn't draw attention, but when they do, it prompts the question: why? Often, it's because they don't fit or come across as odd, similar to a speaker wearing sneakers or other unconventional choices." 

"During this political season, there's been much discussion about boots," Ponce continues. "They evoke images of cowboys, bikers, and military personnel, symbolizing hard work and stamina. Many individuals wear boots effortlessly, as they are part of their authentic lifestyle. But what happens when you try hard to project a tough, hardworking image that isn't authentic?"

Can boots really unmake a man?

This is exactly what Ponce says happened to DeSantis. "Being on brand and in alignment — where your words, actions, and body convey the same message — are crucial for every speaker or public figure. Celebrity and political consultants understand this, striving to ensure their clients' images genuinely reflect their messages. However, they sometimes miss the mark by forcing an image that doesn't resonate."

When this happens, Ponce explains, "It creates a double-bind, where your words say one thing, but your body language communicates another. Ron DeSantis' boots exemplify this. Instead of him wearing them, they seem to wear him, resulting in an uncomfortable and lacking fit with his intended image." He went on to explain that Ron DeSantis' team "worked diligently to improve his image, but this isn't the solution."

Instead, Ponce says that the DeSantis team should have focused less on finding the "right image" and more on "embracing his authentic self." Could a different choice of shoes have affected DeSantis' run for president? We may never know, but Ponce leaves us with a bit of advice, saying, "Remember, what you wear is a part of the message you convey. If it feels like you're trying too hard to be something you're not, it's worth reconsidering."