“It was his culture to dress better than he had to.”

Style Icon: John F. Kennedy

Rachel/June 23, 2013

Saying JFK had a great sense of style is nothing new. But seriously, the guy knew how to dress. Whether donning a freshly pressed suit or a casual polo, John F. Kennedy was never underdressed, and always seemed at ease in the sharpest attire. Get out your Wayfarers and crew neck sweaters as we take a look at the best Presidential style in history.

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John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his death in 1963. He was the youngest man to have ever been elected to office at only 43 upon his win over Republican candidate Richard Nixon, and the only US President to have won a Pulitzer Prize. JFK is one of the higher-ranking Presidents in public opinion polls, largely due to his charisma; he was popular and charming, winning over America with his good looks and demeanor. In fact, Kennedy’s Presidential campaign is a milestone in US history – the first-ever televised debates helped the relaxed and youthful-looking Kennedy slide to victory over the tense, uncomfortable, and perspiring Richard Nixon.

JFK was a hopeful, optimistic, and confident president, and brought youthful energy to the White House. In 1958, Cabell Phillips of The New York Times described the President as “the young Eastern millionaire with the Harvard accent, the Brooks Brothers couture and the egghead ideas” and wrote that “he never looked shabby. It was his culture to dress better than he had to.” Thanks to John F Kennedy, the Ivy League style of “tweed sports coats, Shetland wool crew neck sweaters, brightly colored polo shirts, khakis and loafers” became hugely popular and copied.

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Long before Obama graced the cover of GQ, John Kennedy was the first US President to gain attention for his style and looks. Kennedy is still considered the most stylish of all of our United States Presidents, making even dressing down look classy and inspiring men to dress as if they’re about to board a yacht off the coast of New England. Off duty, he sported boat shoes, chinos, nautical sweaters, classic crew cuts, and stylish sunglasses from Ray-Ban and Persol. Even when fully suited, Kennedy still seemed accessible and at ease, practically oozing with laid-back style and effortless appeal.

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Adding to the appeal and accessibility of our 35th President was his seemingly unselfconsciousness. The Kennedy family was often in the public eye, the first First Family to play such a big role in popular culture, and was being photographed on the beach, sailing, and at parties. John always seemed assured, cool and relaxed, never fussy or uncomfortable. He made two-button suit coats popular during a time when the proper dress called for three, and carried a hat though he didn’t wear one. His style showed signs of his youthfulness, understated elegance, and great deal of self-knowledge.

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JFK’s penchant for slim-cut suits and socks with loafers has made a lasting impression on the style books, and proven that seriousness and fashion aren’t mutually exclusive. He was comfortable and tailored, sure of himself and with a modern attitude towards cut, fit and pattern.

“When we think of John F. Kennedy, he is without a hat, standing in the wind and weather. He was impatient of topcoats and hats, preferring to be exposed, and he was young enough and tough enough to enjoy the cold and the wind of those times…. It can be said of him, as of few men in a like position, that he did not fear the weather, and did not trim his sails, but instead challenged the wind itself, to improve its direction and to cause it to blow more softly and more kindly over the world and its people.” — E. B. White

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