Andrew Little 'ditches' his glasses in election year makeover

labour leader andrew little glasses election
The photo Labour sent to Newshub, left, versus the "ugly" version

They made Superman unrecognisable as Clark Kent, but could losing the glasses make a difference for Labour leader Andrew Little?

Mr Little has this year ditched his frames for contacts, but had denied it was part of an election-year makeover.

But a marketing expert says it could all be part of a larger strategy from Labour to become more relatable to voters.

Turning up to face the media for the first time for the year in mid-January, Mr Little appeared without his specs, saying he'd reverted back to contact lenses a bit more this summer.

He said he'd "sometimes and sometimes not" wear them.

But a Labour Party spokesman contacted Newshub on Wednesday asking for an "ugly" bespectacled image of Mr Little to be substituted for a new one: sans spectacles.

It could be part of a more concerted effort to re-brand the leader; with the spokesman confirming Mr Little had "ditched the glasses".

Auckland University senior lecturer in marketing, Mike Lee, says the move could look to present Labour as "a bit more contemporary; a bit more in tune with what's happening in New Zealand", particularly in comparison to National.

"If that's your core target market then I guess you do want to appear less as a person who tells them what's good for them and more as a person who is there to listen to them and understand and empathise with them," he says.

"If that is the key strategic move from Labour then losing the glasses, it'll be metaphorically lifting the barrier on the leader of the Opposition party so there's nothing between the consumer and the leader."

Not wearing glasses seems a simple change, but it could mean a lot.

He's also worn half-rimmed glasses as seen here on a trip to Iraq (NZ Defence Force/ Supplied)
He's also worn half-rimmed glasses as seen here on a trip to Iraq (NZ Defence Force/ Supplied)

A 2011 study published in the Swiss Journal of Psychology, showed glasses can affect how people view their wearers.

It showed wearing glasses lowers attractiveness, but also increases intelligence and trustworthiness, though the extent of peoples' perceptions can change depending on the kind of glasses worn.

Mr Lee says losing the specs could be a trade-off.

"[Wearing glasses signals] you're a bit more cerebral, probably a bit wiser, a bit older, but on the flip side less relatable, a little bit aloof or at arm's length. So by doing something as simple as getting rid of the glasses and going to contacts they're angling for a different type of relationship."

It could also put Mr Little on "the same playing field" as Prime Minister Bill English who doesn't show as much "charisma" as predecessor John Key did - and is more of a manager than a leader.

And while there will be some voters passionate about policy, there is a group of disengaged voters who approach elections "almost as if it was a chocolate bar".

"For them it might simply be very gut reaction in terms of who they vote for on the day and it could be someone with glasses or someone without glasses."