The International Development secretary went head-to-head with his fellow four contenders in the Conservative Party leadership race on Tuesday evening.
But it was his costume change, not his performance, which sparked the greatest social media frenzy, after he slipped off his tie minutes into the televised debate.
Viewers were baffled by the swift removal of the item of his clothing, with political commentators among the Twitter users to question his “bizarre behaviour”.
“I hate to be trivial but why did Rory Stewart take his tie off after a couple of minutes,” asked BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg.
While another user Tweeted: “Rory Stewart doing a slow slide down his chair and taking off his tie. What sort of Magic Mike flex is this?”
On Wednesday morning Mr Stewart cleared up the mystery in no uncertain terms.
"Why did I take my tie off? Well, because I felt like taking my tie off,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme. “It felt like a good idea at the time.”
Not all social media users are convinced by his straight-forward answer.
“Tie removal was Pre planned. Very clever as he knew it would then trend on Twitter and he’d get more coverage,” tweeted one sceptic.
The only one to have microphone clipped to jacket. Tie removal was Pre planned. Very clever as he knew it would then trend on Twitter and he’d get more coverage.— Tom Whewell (@tom_whewell)June 19, 2019
While others have made jokes referring to his alleged MI6 past, which he denies.
"Surely Rory Stewart can't kill all four of them with just his tie,” wrote Financial Times features writer Henry Mance.
“We would all be in a stronger position if we could begin to combine [on a joint ticket].”@RoryStewartUK says he would be making open offers to all the candidates except Boris Johnson and that he “would be hoping to be leader” @nicholaswatt | #Newsnight | #BBCOurNextPM pic.twitter.com/ZUvDCi6qoq— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight)June 18, 2019
Mr Stewart had offered a more enigmatic motive for the neckwear-slip shortly after the debate, which fuelled the confusion.
“I thought maybe if I took my tie off, we could get back to reality,” he said outside Broadcasting House on Tuesday night.
“I was beginning to feel, on those strange BBC white bar stools, that we were moving off into an alternate reality.”
Some critics have slammed the tie speculation as a distraction from the debate’s true purpose: to weigh up the candidates and their policies.
@bbc5live @NickyAACampbell @rachelburden Can we stop obsessing about the tie and talk about the candidates completely ignoring the austerity, food banks,UC and poverty question posed? Speaks volumes about their REAL priorities.— Mark Hopkinson (@mark_hopkinson)June 19, 2019
“Can we stop obsessing about the tie and talk about the candidates completely ignoring the austerity, food banks, UC and poverty question posed? Speaks volumes about their REAL priorities,” commented one frustrated Twitter user.
However, others have taken a more light-hearted approach.
"So... who do we think won?" asked Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden.
"The tie," responded one wag on Twitter.