07 July 2011

Imperial Closets: A Tall, Fit, Very American Kind of Build (2)

'President John Kennedy once joked that Washington is a city of northern charm and southern efficiency. The stereotypical image of the capital is that of the old, fat southern senator wearing his ice-cream suit on a hot summer day and fanning himself with a straw hat. Washington was built on a swamp, and there's still more seersucker here than anyplace outside Calcutta. The Dixie influence can also be observed among presidential aides at play, wearing their Alabama State or University of Virginia sweaters tucked into their sharply creased jeans.

But George Bush, who boasts a tall, fit, very American kind of build, wears the clothes of his class--and well. In an essay in The New Republic, Alessandra Stanley dubbed Bush's administration the Ralph Lauren Presidency, claiming Bush's imagemakers had exploited the value of a large and attractive Connecticut clan brimming with the WASP aesthetics and pseudo-English gentility that Lauren has been selling to middle-class Americans for over a decade. Crested blazers, polo shirts, tennis sweaters, faded natural fibres. "The Bushes came by their subdued fashion sense the old-fashioned way," Stanley wrote. "They inherited it."

So while the president scorns fashionable duds--he still picks up running suits at Sears--he does have a classic eastern-Establishment look that suits the office he holds. Bush picked up a snappier look during his 1988 run for the White House. Desperately trying to shake his elitist-preppy-wimp label, he shed his buttondown collars, half-rimmed glasses and striped watchband. Now he favours shirts of solid blue or of blue vertical stripes with white spread collars, and shops for himself at J.Press and, until recently, at Arthur A. Adler. (It is a frightening thought that, since J.Press is owned by Kashiyama, a Japanese manufacturing-and-distributing company, even the president of the United States has been taken over by the Japanese.)

With the exception of a certain pair of lime green golfing pants, the president looks his best when he sports Abercrombie & Fitch-style rugged wear. It's hard sometimes to tell which he likes best, the fishing and the hunting or the costumes that such hobbies require. The president never looks happier than when quail hunting in Beeville, Texas, as he does every Christmas, wearing snake-resistant boots, camouflage pants and a baseball cap from the local dog kennel, and toting a shotgun. This look appeals to his "kick-a-little-ass" self-image, the same side that likes beef jerky and pork rinds slathered in Tabasco sauce.

It must have been Bush's flair for colorful layering that inspired the look of a photo spread of the Bush family at Kennebunkport in the March issue of Paris Match, "le plus populaire de Presidents." In a shot in the living room, Bush is wearing black cowboy boots, cuffed gray trousers, a red T-shirt, a green polo shirt and a gray tweed sport coat with a burgundy stripe. In a shot in the kitchen, where he is helping Paula Rendon, the cook, make "un gâteau traditional," the president has changed to a blue-striped work shirt and a gray herringbone jacket over a red turtleneck. In a third shot, on his speedboat, the Ralph Lauren president is wearing a rust-colored polo shirt and a white Nike pullover with dark-green chinos.'

'Read My Hips', GQ, August 1990


Anonymous said...


Actually, just crap said...

'Snake resistant' boots - might these be Gokeys? I certainly bought mine because Bush Snr. wore them.

But Para one reminds me irresistably of the Vauxhall Tigra - 'the sports car for people who iron their jeans...'

Anonymous said...

The Curse Of The Spurned Weejun: One Term.

Still, I imagine snake proof boots might have some use with all those lawyers and lobbyists round.

old said...

Very clever retort, Stockton! A bone dry sense of humor is indeed the best sense of humor.

Old School

Anonymous said...

Thank you Old School.