How relevant to fashion is Donald J. Trump’s victory? A lot of fashion pundits have been taking pops at POTUS45 and his entourage over their sartorial shortcomings. We’ll get to that further on, although I will just say that overcoat buttons are meant to be done up, especially when reviewing the troops or being sworn in as President of the United States.
If buttons are too much trouble, POTUS45 might consider capes, as worn by all kinds of dramatic characters from history and popular culture. Another alternative might be the zip-up romper suits worn in various materials by Winston Churchill during World War II. Some versions had a rear opening, which might be useful for people at risk of forgetting to pull down their pants before taking a dump.
Is knocking POTUS45 and company for wearing foreign clothing a cheap shot? Back in the rose-tinted past before the Vietcong took a shit on Camelot’s doorstep, Jackie Kennedy wore Oleg Cassini’s reinterpretations of Chanel suits to avoid just this kind of criticism from patriotic types. But times change. We live in the Global Village. According to the American Apparel & Footwear Association, 97% of clothing sold in the U.S. is made overseas.
It must be said that for all of the feel-good America First! rhetoric and triple-goal incantations recalling solid values from the past like Ein Reich! Ein Volk! Ein Führer! or the milder French Travail, Famille, Patrie, some of the new regime players do come across as a tad un-American in terms of their clothing choices.
Alternative Facts Advisor Kellyanne Conway’s #revolutionarywear outfit reflected the soldiers and musicians parading past POTUS45 in War of Independence fancy dress, but did it have to be Gucci? Couldn’t she have found an American designer capable of dressing her like Paul Revere or an extra from the Sgt. Pepper album cover?
At least the First Lady was wearing All-American in the form of Ralph Lauren’s reinterpretation of the students’ uniforms from the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Some fashion pundits compared her outfit to 1960s Chanel worn by Jackie Kennedy, although it wasn’t Chanel, as we have said. More Givenchy than Chanel, if one were under the gun for a vapid analogy.
However, POTUS45 drew flak for his foreign-brand Brioni suits, although it was pointed out that he also wears suits by Martin Greenfield of Brooklyn. I regret to say that I cannot tell the difference. POTUS45 almost always looks like a man in a borrowed or stolen suit. This is not to cast aspersions on Mr. Greenfield’s abilities nor indeed those of Maison Brioni, both of whom have also dressed Barack Obama, who is never less than chic. The late Nelson Mandela also wore Brioni.
POTUS45 has favored Brioni suits since the Paris-based house dressed him free of charge in his reality TV days. POTUS45 says that he buys off-the-peg. In his 2004 book, Think Like a Billionaire, the ghostwriter wrote: “I wear Brioni suits, which I buy off the rack. Some people think it’s best to have custom-tailored clothing. I don’t recommend it unless you have an oddly-shaped body.”
Patriots with normal bodies like POTUS45 might consider Brooks Brothers’ perfectly respectable off-the-peg suits for around a grand. Moreover, 85% of Brooks Brothers’ suits are made in Haverhill, Massachusetts, which ticks the all-American box. But if POTUS45 prefers to stick with what he knows, who are we to throw stones?
In November 2016, Women’s Wear Daily reported Brioni as saying that its client’s suits are made-to-measure and that he has been a paying customer for many years, although there are haters who might ask whose money he is spending. The starting prices of off-the-peg Brioni suits are north of five grand and can rise to almost three times that amount for bespoke versions.
Okay, so we don’t expect POTUS45 to descend to the level of wearing his own brand’s $140 suits, but isn’t this a bit of a slap in the face for all those rustbelt post-working class layabouts and gun-fondlers who elected him? POTUS45’s Soup Kitchen Stormtroopers would probably retort that he has the right to spend his money as he wishes.
Adolf Hitler’s clothing budget cost German taxpayers dearly whilst recruits to his Sturmabteilung had to buy their own uniform pants and accessories, with profits going to the Nazi Party, to prove their commitment to the movement. The shirt and the armband were free. No SA man is known to have complained about the unfairness of it all.
It is sometimes said that as soon as one party compares the other to Hitler and the Nazis, an argument is lost. Look where it got POTUS45: He compared America’s spooks to the Nazis and ended up having to go and grovel at Spook HQ the day after his inauguration. Now, let me be really clear: I am not comparing POTUS45 to Hitler. There are many differences.
Hitler served his country in war and was decorated for valour. Well, okay, it wasn’t his country. Not yet, anyway. POTUS45 avoided Vietnam and has managed to avoid serving his country until now and this chance of redemption in the twilight years of his life. Hitler enrichened himself through all sorts of abuses of the law. POTUS45 is clearly a law-abiding citizen, otherwise he could not have become President, could he?
However, there are some sartorial parallels. Hitler was dressed by some of Germany’s most expensive civilian and military tailors, like Werner of Munich and Holter of Berlin, yet still managed to look as if he were wearing borrowed clothes. His civilian suits were ill-fitting and clumsily accessorised with garish ties and inappropriately coloured shoes. His uniform jackets were just as badly cut.
It is said that this was part of a strategy to give the impression of being an ordinary chap, a man of the workers, the patronising assumption being that the workers are incapable of dressing smartly if given the chance. Is POTUS45 interested in gulling people into seeing him as their champion against the power elites, the goal of all demagogues seeking power? Of course he is. But if his wardrobe were part of such a strategy, he would dress like Bernie Sanders.
Coming back to the WWD article in November 2016, Brioni’s spokesperson was reported as saying of POTUS45’s bespoke suits, somewhat pointedly, that “the silhouette and fabrics follow his personal requirements.” The same is presumably true of the Martin Greenfield suits, although I stand to be corrected if proven wrong.
If POTUS45 is prepared to pay more per suit than the annual wages of one of his alleged clandestine workers to look like a bollard, so be it, as long as it’s his own money he’s wasting. But crotch wrinkles is not a good look for anyone, even unsuccessful door-to-door salesmen, and much less so the President of the United States, who has a duty to be elegant.
Adolf Hitler sweated excessively and his chauffeur got into the habit of keeping suitcases with changes of clothing in all of his master’s aircraft and vehicles as a solution. While the Führer’s clothes might have been ill-fitting, as least they were clean and pressed. But as I said, I am not comparing POTUS45 to Adolf Hitler. There are many differences between them. Hitler also fastened his buttons.