It’s Time for Change…of Shirts

JFK inauguration shirt

In his recently published memoir, The Place to Be, television newsman Roger Mudd writes about a time he was late to Air Force One as President John F.  Kennedy was about to leave for a trip. The reporter was forced to take a different staircase than was usual: “To get to my seat in the rear I had to pass through the presidential quarters. There stood the president of the United States himself, with [press secretary Pierre] Salinger grinning and hovering, ready to pounce if I dared ask a question. I dared not. The president stepped aside to let me pass….As I slipped by, I noticed that there were shelves in the space usually used for coats—shelf after shelf of shirts, stacks of freshly laundered presidential shirts. There must have been four dozen of them. Only later did I learn that Kennedy put on a fresh shirt each and every time he deplaned from Air Force One for a public appearance.”

3 Responses to “It’s Time for Change…of Shirts”

  1. Annalucia June 5, 2008 at 6:51 pm #

    The Annalucia is not really surprised. When one is as incessantly and relentlessly photographed as is a President of the United States (especially a President of the TV-star variety, as was Mr. Kennedy) one must take care as to how one would appear. Think of the people who would have pounced upon the rumpled shirt and the carelessly-knotted tie.

    Similarly, the Annalucia has read (though how true it is, she does not know) that when members of the British Royal Family travel, they carry always a complete suit of mourning clothes. That way, should one of their nearest and dearest die while they are away, they will not find themselves being photographed in the incongruously cheery summer attire as they deplane at Heathrow.

  2. The Joe in Atl June 6, 2008 at 1:31 pm #

    The Ralph Lauren, always a student of the English style and a consummate imitator, called an early model shirt with a straight collar the “Kennedy” collar. This was said to be because the late President decreed that shirts with button down collars were not dress shirts, and therefore they were banned from the White House.

    It is of course common knowledge, though I shall repeat it here for the unenlightened, that the originator of the button down collar intended it as wear for sporting gentlemen whilst riding, in hopes that the collars would not fly up in their faces. Said haberdasher referred to it, and still does, as a Polo collar. This is the same company that is said to have employed Mr. Lauren in the role of necktie salesman at their 346 Madison Avenue flagship store.

    While the button down collar has come to be acceptable wear with suits in some corners, the late President knew that as a garment intended for sporting use, it was no more appropriate for wear in the home of the leader of the free world than would be a riding habit or jockey’s silks.

  3. Jeff the Baptist June 9, 2008 at 3:30 pm #

    The button down collar is fine with a sportcoat or blazer. Once upon a time they were also piece of sportswear, not proper business dress. I try to avoid the button-down collar with the suit though. The lines aren’t right.