At the 2002 Tory conference, Theresa May caught the nation’s attention with a speech reprimanding her colleagues for their reputation as ‘the nasty party’ - and her leopard-print kitten heels. It would be trite to say that her choice of footwear carried as much significance as her rallying cry to her fellow politicos to be more accepting. But it was an early sign that this was a woman approaching political office on her own terms - and unafraid to court controversy.

She was immediately compared to Imelda Marcos- the wife of former Philipine dictator Ferdinand Marcos said to have owned 3000 pairs of shoes- and labelled a 'shoeaholic'. But if May had felt in any way uncomfortable with the attention that her shoes received, then there’s no doubt that she’d had have consigned the jazzy footwear to the weekends-only section of her wardrobe early on.

Instead, May has climbed from chairman of the Conservative party through various shadow ministerial and ministerial roles to become one of Britain’s longest serving home secretaries - and now Prime Minister. All the while wearing a refreshingly dazzling array of printed coats, elegant tailoring and statement shoes which she's just as comfortable buying on the high street- think L.K Bennett- as from designer boutiques. 

When she made her bid for leadership, in a speech that, in these post-Brexit times feels like years not weeks ago, she turned to an old wardrobe favourite: a Vivienne Westwood black watch tartan trouser suit. When it was announced last week that May had been selected as one of the final two candidates in the Conservative leadership contest, she paired her elegant (much more flattering on camera than black) aubergine dress with a very playful pair of lip-printed pointed pumps. And today she entered 10 Downing Street for her final cabinet meeting as Home Secretary in a trouser suit which was made a thousand times more interesting with its folded, draped lapels, another pair of flat leopard print shoes and her professional, but fashionable, L.K Bennett £225 Kora bag.

 Karen Smyth is a stylist who works with corporate clients, helping them to create a look which chimes with their job as well as their personal tastes. "I truly applaud Theresa May as she is demonstrating that men and women are not the same and that a powerful femininity when it comes to clothes can still be taken seriously," she tells The Telegraph. "In resisting the trap of conforming to the 'uniform' corporate suit or dress, she remains appropriate while being true to herself and her obvious enjoyment of fashion."

It’s good news that May wears good clothes but even better news that her passion for a quirky kitten heel or a handbag which looks sleek yet is roomy enough for ministerial papers is deep-seated and genuine. When she appeared on Desert Island Discs in 2014, May chose a Vogue subscription as her luxury item, telling listeners that she doesn't work with a stylist but has a shop which knows her well and will often call when something comes in they think she'll like. When Kirsty Young commented that her look was “pulled together” and “fashion-forward”, May replied “I enjoy clothes”.

It’s often said that fashion is to women what football is to men. While that’s unfair to women just as likely to be seen in a stadium as in Sandro, or men as keen to discuss  ties as tournaments, it does have a grain of truth. There was a notorious incident last year when David Cameron forgot that it was Aston Villa he was meant to support and instead told an audience that ‘I’d rather you supported West Ham.’

It was said to have just been a slip of the tongue but it exposed that Dave’s love of footie was perhaps orchestrated to make him seem like a normal chap. One suspects there’s no danger of Theresa May getting Russell and Bromley and Roland Mouret (her other go-to labels) in a muddle.

And, just as Barack Obama’s tendency to literally roll up his shirt sleeves is apparently a subtle signifier that he’s ready to get stuck into the job, so May acknowledges the power that clothing can have in the game that is politics. Take her meticulous matching of a scarf, jacket and nail polish colour - no doubt in part a way of her projecting a vision of a woman who is super-organized and able to execute consistently joined-up thinking.

What’s even more refreshing is May not only knows the power of fashion - she’s not afraid to acknowledge it. Unlike Nicola Sturgeon who felt the need to apologise for and justify the ‘internal conflict’ she felt about appearing in an issue of Vogue, May changes into her heels before meeting constituents. She’s not one of the female MPs, who legend has it in Westminster, have removed mirrors from their offices for fear of being accused of being vain.  

She also says that her love of shoes has helped other women find politics more accessible. Describing an exchange with another woman in parliament in 2010, she said: 'I said I liked them (her shoes) and she said my shoes were the reason she became involved in politics.' 

As one of May’s friends once put it: “She doesn’t mind wearing something people wouldn’t expect her to wear. It’s not an attention-seeking thing, it’s defiant: ‘I know I have a brain and I’m serious so I can wear pretty shoes’.” And who can argue with that?