Presidential panache

Toycen, Michael

A good friend of mine had commented repeatedly in the weeks leading up to the presidential election that she was voting for John McCain based upon the stylishness of his wife, in comparison to Michelle Obama. Thankfully, for the health of America, my friend did not end up voting. This column is for her.
As one fashion critic in the United States wrote, “American politicians are the dullest dressers on the planet.” This is true, and George W. Bush has been the epitome of this statement. President Bush, if it is to be conceded that he has done violence to everything he has touched, has actually done very little damage because of how he has dressed.
Bush brought with him to the White House both his Texan background and his long career in the corporate world. Thus, he did what was expected of an American president: He dressed without ostentation at every turn, sans the occasional French cuffed shirt. This style of dress has been influenced by his long career in the business world. History will be a far better judge of Bush than liberals who are all too eager to castigate our 43rd president. And if history castigates, it will not be because of how Bush dressed.
Joe Biden has dressed and presented himself in a manner exactly opposite. As a career politician who has never refused the opportunity for the Federal government to seize more power, Biden epitomizes slick Washington politicians. He brazenly sports a pocket square, though he has been smart enough to keep it to being white linen. Reagan’s pocket squares, because of his Hollywood background, were forgivable. In addition, Biden enjoys wearing French cuffs. Biden the politician has a style sense that perfectly complements his penchant for hair plugs and camera-mugging smile. For a politician, Biden’s style of dress borders dangerously garish.
Barack Obama is better dressed than either Bush or Biden. His style is young and hip — a true heir to the Kennedy legacy. Though Obama is safe and completely reasonable in center vents for his coats — very American — his suits are exceptionally tailored. These suits, however, have done absolutely no damage to his image. They only help to exemplify Obama’s youthfulness. Note how the baggy suits John McCain wore covered up his age. And politically, it’s important to mention, Obama has been smart again with his suits, because they’re union made.
The one area where Obama is completely lacking is the tie. He does wear a simple and always impeccably tied four-in-hand knot — but only when he wears one. At least one fashion critic has speculated that Obama will do to the tie what John F. Kennedy did to the hat. We’ll see.
In the choices Obama will have to make as president, one will be in dress. He and his party have routinely — and rightly — denounced practically all of George W. Bush’s policies of the last eight years, yet it is highly advisable that Obama follow in the sartorial style of Bush.
Biden, who has continuously put his foot in his mouth over his career in the senate and on the campaign trail this year, only extends this embarrassment to his choice of clothing. Obama is the candidate of change — change from George W. Bush. Hopefully this does not extend to sartorial matters.