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When Rachel Maddow explains why MSNBC leans forward instead of left, she does it wearing hoodies. When you have cable news on all day, but muted, you don't notice what's happening in the world as much as how it looks when people talk about it. On MSNBC, for example, you notice when Meghan McCain takes out her hair extensions. Or that Ari Shapiro moisturizes. Or that Rachel Maddow is always standing in front of the Hoover dam for some reason, wearing a hoodie. Then, one day, you notice Maddow has a new hoodie. This becomes significant, because when you work in a blueish-grey office away from a window, the TV is your connection to the outside. Why has Rachel Maddow changed her hoodie? It requires an investigation. 

Like her fellow MSNBC hosts, Maddow does promos for the network under its newish slogan, "Lean Forward." The other hosts aren't quite so casual -- they all wear a collared shirt, sometimes with a sweater, including token working class persona Ed Schultz. Maddow is the only female primetime host, and though they don't dress her up like Fox talent, she still gets the most outfit variety. Her persona is down-to-earth nerd, but her wardrobe can't be an accident: everyone in TV knows that images are just as important as words. Each of Rachel Maddow's three hoodies must mean something.

Brown hoodie

Maddow wears a brown hoodie when talking in front of the Hoover Dam. It says: woman of the people, unafraid of dirt, "I am a nerd but I am comfortable around tools." (Maddow's love of Ford trucks helps this image.) Maddow explains that she is liberal because she likes it when big things get built. "This is a project of national significance. We've got those projects on the menu right now. And we've got to figure out whether or not we are still a country that can think this big."

Green hoodie

This hoodie isn't just any old green -- it's Army green. Maddow wears her militant hoodie in the office, suggesting she expects exacting discipline from both herself and her troops. Rachel instructs her soldiers with a dry erase board: "Doing this takes rigor and a devotion to facts that borders on obsessive."

Grey hoodie

On city streets and cafes. Maddow wears the grey hoodie to talk about Social Security -- which is a program that benefits grey-haired people! Subtle. Old people have been relatively okay during the recession, she says, because Social Security is working. Are you listening, old folks? Rachel Maddow has not forgotten you.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.