Okay there... game on. Politics. Tricky, right? (Or left?) Joking aside, this was a lot of fun to think about – so I am glad you asked. Thank you. I spun up a pretty big list in the brainstorming process – and went down a bit of a Google Images rabbithole - but in the end, I went with my first gut picks.
Right out of the gate, my first thought was Ronald Reagan. You can take the man out of Hollywood, but you can't take the Hollywood out of the man. Of course, he was an actor first, and that sense of confidence and magnetism, just the way he carried himself, are a big part of his style. He looked presidential in a suit for sure – but it was his Western look that has stayed in my head. California cowboy cool.
Next up, the Kennedy brothers – a two-for-one. John F (JFK, or Jack) and Robert (Bobby) Kennedy. I won't go on again about how my major design influences come from the 1960s (and mostly from television, not politics, since I was just a kid,) but those guys have the same stylish look as so many of the men I looked up to. And, like Reagan, they both exuded charm and charisma. (Of course it helps to be handsome as all get-out.) They both wore suits in that easy, natural way... they were comfortable in them. Bobby in particular - you could envision him going home to his 11 (!) children and not being afraid of some sticky-fingered son clambering up into his lap, or throwing the ball around the yard before dinner. On them, a suit looks like what I'm always preaching – a uniform you can live in, work in, and feel comfortable in. When I think of their best looks, my mind goes to Bobby on the 1968 campaign trail, in a grey suit, repp tie and white pocket square. And while it's easy to think of JFK addressing the nation, my mind goes to him on a boat in a polo or summer-weight sweater and khaki pants. Those images of American presidential romance are kind of burned in my head, and I know I'm not the only one. American Trench, where we get a lot of our socks, designed their original Kennedy style from a photograph of JFK watching America's Cup.
For pick No. 3, I'm going global with Kofi Annan. The UN Secretary-General from Ghana was a pretty cool-looking cat – mostly showed up in suits, and always looked great. Truthfully, I probably remember his voice even more than his clothing – but there's something stylish about that too. Learning to speak slowly and thoughtfully and quietly – we could all take a few pointers. He had an awesome, neatly-trimmed beard way before I did, and I like how he let his hair get just a little unkempt. And like everybody else on this list, he, too, wears a suit like a second skin. I would say he has a more traditional, formal vibe than the Kennedys. Dignified, elegant, warm... I guess that's why he led the Secretariat.
Next up is one of my two style wild cards... Teddy Roosevelt. This maybe be a surprise – clearly he was sleeping at the White House way before I was around. But it was his time spent away from Pennsylvania Avenue that strikes me as so stylish. A man of adventure! A sportsman, a hunter, a soldier, a reader, a writer, a conservationist... a manly President who wasn't afraid of wild game. So in my head, he's not in a three-piece suit or tiny glasses at his desk... he's in a safari-style jacket, bandana around his neck, and awesome boots, trudging through one of the national parks.
Lastly, I may be stretching the term "politician" when I share my final pick, Gianni Agnelli. But I would say the president of Fiat counts... for sure. His hair and his tan are hard to forget, but the suits he wore, tailored just for him in Rome by Caraceni, were the very definition of ‘second skin.' And so much more literally than I mentioned earlier with the Kennedys – the Italians just take ease and movement in tailored clothing to a different level. His ties came from Marinella, his shirts from Battistoni. He knew quality and he only wore the best. In some ways, it was his duty! Like a politician, he represented his country and knew the world was looking at him. But there was life in the way he dressed, as well. Later on in his career, he got into button-down collars (from Brooks Brothers – exported American cool) and leaving the buttons undone was his signature. His tie was often a bit askew, and on occasion, he would wear hiking boots with his suits. I think he liked a bit of casualization... obviously, I am a fan.
So, Garrett, there are my five - some more literally "in office" than others. But no matter your politics, everyone can appreciate a man who has the good manners to dress thoughtfully... not so much to gain votes, but to exude confidence and care for those around him.