30 January 2009

The Formalities of Formality

This post is about the Presidents shirt collar.
Like him or not, George Herbert Walker Bush is a Massachusetts born Yale man who shops at J.Press, a guy with taste in clothes similar to my own, so I'm going to go ahead and use him here as a sartorial example.

Lately around the blogs I've heard many people wishing to see the President in an Oxford Cloth Button Down Collared shirt. I disagree. Button down collars, as much as we all may love them, are inherently more casual than straight collars. After all, they do have their origins in the world of sport. The same is true of cuffed trousers. While they may indeed be appropriate for many business settings, they are not appropriate in a more formal setting. If the office of President of the United States is not a formal setting, then what is?

George knew this. In the photo above, he's wearing a 3/2 sack suit with 2 button cuffs, likely from J.Press. His shirt is straight collared and I'm willing to bet there are no cuffs on his trousers. I'm also willing to bet that he spent much of his professional life prior to his Vice-Presidency wearing button downs and cuffs, but switched when his position required it.

Personally I wear button downs and cuffed pants almost exclusively, but if I were the boss I'd reconsider. A President in a button down collar to me is a man who doesn't understand the finer points of proper dress.

The little things make all the difference.

p.s. Reagan's suit is too big in the shoulders and the sleeves are too long, and its brown. He looks like somebodies uncle at a wedding.


Anonymous said...

Quick run-around: get straight collar oxford cloth shirts made by David Mercer up in Maine (or down east if that's how you roll).

Sure it's not cheap, but they are really awesome.

Anonymous said...

Everything about Reagan is wrong: The huge collar, the brown tie, the pomaded hair... you name it!

Kim said...

I always swore that I must have been switched at birth with Doro Bush. I was sure of it after I saw the house in Kennebunkport.

Joel Cee said...

I know, I know, conventional wisdom is that the non-BD collar is more serious, less casual, but I think the BD collar also suggests an approachability that isn't a bad thing, even (maybe, especially) in a president.

I remember reading once that JFK criticized brother Bobby for wearing those "old-fashioned" button down collars, although he left them behind by the time he made his run for president in 1968. I never cared for JFK short point collars, but they were very 60s.

Mercer's straight collar oxford is an option. I got one in ecru-I wish the collar was longer, but it's still a great alternative.

As to Reagan's suits, he did seem to favor brown. I remember reading when he was in office that he had his suits custom-made for about $1,200, which seemed astronomical to me at the time (still does, but less so, when Brooks and Press OTRs are approaching $1,000) Strange that he didn't get a better fit given supposedly bespoke tailoring. I never cared for his low-cut shirt necklines, but I suppose his "turkey-wattle" neck made that necessary.

It can be debated how much RR had to do with the end of the Soviet Union (The Wall DID get torn down eventually...). If he indeed did, not too bad an accomplishment for a guy in an ill-fitting brown suit.

Anonymous said...

Good post. The little things *do* make the difference, and in more than just dress...in your p.s., you might wish to add an apostrophe to "its" and replace "somebodies" with "somebody's". I'll let the two "and"s pass as a rhetorical device.

Anonymous said...

Reagan got the handkerchief right, but all else sadly wrong. Spending too much time with chimps I shouldn't wonder.

Giuseppe said...

Last Anon.,

I'm one of those good fer nuthing creative types. Ain't never bin no good with spellin n' gramma.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Anon.

If you are going to blog about attention to detail you must show attention to detail, even in grammar.

You may be artsy, but the Jesuits taught you better than that.

Giuseppe said...

The jesuits never taught me how to type.

heavy tweed jacket said...

The _J_esuits never taught me how to type either, that was the job of the Dominican sisters in summer school. Did George H.W. Bush's dress change subtly after he became President (two button suits, perhaps)?

Anonymous said...

Love H-dub's style. he cleaned it up a bit when he got the "big" office but he's still got style like few other presidents.

3button Max said...

photos of Bush 1 before vice presidency often show him in ocbd-
great blog giuseppe-