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Politics and Clothes

This one’s been sitting in my “Drafts” folder for some time, and an article in today’s National Post (Conservatism Wears Bobby Socks, paid registration required) has inspired me to finish it.

Back in July, when President Bush announced his nomination of John Roberts for associate justice of the Supreme Court, the  normally reasonable Washington Post ran an article in its Style section titled An Image a Little Too Carefully Coordinated.

The article’s author lambasted the Roberts’ clothing choices for the press conference.

Here’s the photo that accompanied the article:

Photo: Washington Post photo of announcement of John Robert's nomination.
You say “dated”, I say “classic”.

Robin Givhan, the author of the article, spared no simile in order to convey her revulsion for their outfits and their semiotic payload. She wrote that they embodied “syrupy nostalgia” and that:

The nominee was in a sober suit with the expected white shirt and red tie. His wife and children stood before the cameras, groomed and glossy in pastel hues — like a trio of Easter eggs, a handful of Jelly Bellies, three little Necco wafers.

To which I reply: We have a technical term for what you just wrote, ma’am. That word is “bullshit.”

I am no advocate of Bush-style conservatism — my own political spectrum motto could be summed up as “Liberals, by and large, are fools; conservatives, by and large, are villains.”

However, I find nothing wrong with what the Roberts family are wearing. It is appropriate for the event, and hey, the kids look really cute in those outfits. They certainly give off a better image than Bush’s own progeny, who dress for important events if they’re going to hit a semi-formal kegger afterwards (which, come to think of it, is pretty likely).

Maybe it’s a Filipino Guy Thing. We have a tendency to dress up more than the typical North American dude, which these days is dirt easy. I were invited to a state function where my dad was to be introduced to the public by the head of state, I’d probably purchase a new dress shirt and tie, if not a whole new suit.

Here’s another line from the article:

In a time when most children are dressed in Gap Kids and retailers of similar price-point and modernity, the parents put young master Jack in an ensemble that calls to mind John F. “John-John” Kennedy Jr.

Had Mr. Roberts been a liberal appointee, Givhan would’ve written the same line — but as praise.

My only fashion advice to Roberts would be to:

  • Move son Jack out of bow ties once he hits about 10 years old. Young boys, old southern mayors, black tie events and Chippendales dancers aside, the bow tie says “asshole” in the same way that a moustache sans beard says “cop, porn star or possibly both”. Tucker Carlson is a prime example.
  • Lengthen those jacket sleeves. Dude, if I can afford alterations at Harry Rosen, you can afford your own too.


[via Torontoist]

Here’s where some conservative wardrobe would’ve helped: here in Accordion City, Pam Coburn, a Toronto bureaucrat suspended due to allegations of hot sexualmisconductoncronyism action, appeared at a press conference with her kids.

Anyone who’s even read the course outline for Public Relations 101 knows that when you’ve been accused of promoting your married co-worker lover meteorically through the ranks until he’s your second-in-command, you should dress for press conferences in a way that says “Impropriety? Me? Never!” This was not the case:

Coburn’s daughter’s outfit — cardigan and t-shirt, reminscent of a 50’s sweater set — might have been fine had she tucked it in. Coburn’s own outfit looks like a bathrobe; it says “Whether it’s against the rules of ethics or against the photocopier, I’m ready, baby!”.

But her son’s pimp-tastic wide-collared leisure suit outfit is just not helping. All it needs is a “No Fat Chicks” button on the lapel to complete the look.

Recommended Reading

  • The Suit Rant:“This is going to sound superficial, old-fashioned and judgemental, but I’m going to say it anyway: Gentlemen, you need to own at least one suit in order to be a grown-up.”
  • Sharp Dressed Man:“The barman isn’t just some kid from University in a beer T-shirt who’s doing it just for some extra money, but a pillar of the community who wears a tie.”

4 replies on “Politics and Clothes”

I have no problem with dressing for the occasion, but, dude, they put that kid in short pants. Just like Dennis the Menace. Funny post-script, a couple minutes after that photo was taken, the boy started to do a little happy-dance and was escorted to another room by the Secret Service.

Short pants-and-tie is a venerable kid’s fashion tradition, from British schools to AC/DC’s Angus Young. It was the uniform that I wore in “prep” and grade 1 in Ateneo de Manila University, a school that covers every grade from kindergarten-level all the way through to doctorate.

Kids will occasionally do a happy dance when something important’s going on, and in the absence of a nanny or doting uncle like myself, a Secret Service official will do just fine. The only thing I would’ve done differently had I been the Prez would be to interrupt my speech, pick up the kid and said “By the way, have I introduced you people to Jack?”

Maybe it’s a Filipino Guy Thing. We have a tendency to dress up more than the typical North American dude, which these days is dirt easy.

For occasions, yes, not as a 24×7 thing though. I decided that after I was done being a student, I wanted to stop looking like a student.

…a moustache sans beard says “cop, porn star or possibly both”

Whoa, harsh. My wife doesn’t want me to shave mine off, is all.

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