My editor-in--chief feels that this essay may be frivolous and perhaps better junked. I respond that what draws one's attention cannot be altogether frivolous. It must mean something or we would not notice it. Human beings wear clothing: there has to be something in that somewhere…. So, you decide.
Much is said of how superbly turned-out Ms. Obama was at the Inauguration. As kids we would have called her a “looker”, but been too young to understand the joie that informs her every dress and step.
But it is not the great lady about whom I wish to write: it is of her husband,the President, of his linen and his neck-wear. My father insisted that if we got our tie and its collar just right, all would be well for us, even in a thread-bare Depression Era moth-eaten suit. People look always first to the face facing them and then to see how that face joins the body below-- where the shirt and tie are at work making their critical impression.
I call to your recollection that the President’s linen and neck-wear for the inauguration was the purest, exemplary Americana.
See first the necktie, of the happiest Democratic blue, of what looks to be foulard in the neatest and tiniest of abstract patterns. It’s important to note that the tie is knotted beautifully in a standard four-in-hand knot, a knot that we have known in America from the beginning of time. Note, too, that this cravat is neither dashingly wide nor grudgingly thin, but American-ample, just right. The dimple in the knot is just enough off-center to indicate that it is the sign of the studied innovation for the new.
We live in a time of wider spreading collar points, some so wide on the younger men that they rest nearly parallel with the horizon. They are very British if not exactly Savile Row. But these ultra wide ”spreads” are not for the President, no Windsor dandyism here. This Inauguration linen is of finest white cotton broadcloth, looking lightly starched, and carrying conservative American collar points, tending dynamically toward the vertical. Any more nearly vertical and they would bespeak a cultural “square”, but here they neatly accent the height and slender profile of the President. A $150.00 shirt if ever I saw one.
The overall effect, is of a man who is a fine dresser, who dresses himself, and who knows that what he wears has something to do with what he is. His is the dress of one who is carefully confident, razor sharp, at his ease and ready for anything and anybody-- all day long.
Only the lapel flag pin feels wrong. It has become the certain sign of those lesser men who go around protesting too much their fervid patriotism.
I note that black appears to have become the President’s emblematic color-- the color of all the deaths that he mourns.