My mother will doubtless find the fact that her famously fashion averse son is posting on men's formal wear most amusing. Then again, I have always had a thing for hats - the more outlandish the better - a trait I share with my father. I am probably one of the very few who would approve if Sioux warbonnets became de rigour corporate attire, though perhaps poultry feathers could be substituted for those of endangered eagles. I must say Silent Cal looks absolutely striking in his adopted native finery.
I got on the subject of presidents and men's fashion in response to "Turbangate." Tigerhawk alerted me that conservative über-blogger Michelle Malkin seems to be downplaying the significance of a photo of Barak Obama in traditional Somali dress by offering a range of "politicians going native" images including Coolidge in feathers, Laura Bush seated next to a woman in a burqa and George W. Bush with a scimitar. Inspired, I went searching on-line for a picture I am sure exists of JFK in a headdress but came up short. What I found instead was probably even more astonishing.
This claim has been repeated so often as to have achieved conventional wisdom status. Kennedy, the story goes, appeared hatless at his 1961 inaugural and in so doing sounded the death knell for what had previously been considered a required component of proper men's attire. Except that he did in fact wear his silk topper for most of the ceremony, and even revived the custom after Ike took to wearing a Homburg and rode hatless to his own inaugural in 1953. True, Kennedy didn't wear hats much, but though he may have accelerated it he did not start the bareheaded trend which was well underway in the previous decade. White gloves went out of fashion in the 1960s, too, but nobody tries to pin that on Pat Nixon.
There are some haberdashers who fear a similar correlation between a decline in men's necktie's and Barak Obama, who often appears without one. One very sensible hatter doubts the relationship has any more validity than JFK's impact on the hat industry, but also predicts that if Obama does make it to the Oval Office conventional wisdom will link his aversion to neck wear to its overall decline.
Now I will let you in on a little secret about ties. A vertical stripe breaks up an expansive torso. There are plenty of men who are not in fighting trim that may dislike neckties but are grateful for that effect when getting dressed up is required. It is that, or wear an open vest to hide the love handles. So I doubt that ties are completely doomed, regardless of whether Barak Obama likes to wear them or not.
Meanwhile, I'm holding out for capes to make a comeback. I assure you, I am more than prepared for this eventuality.