9 Presidents with Style Well Beyond the Call of Duty

A look at the fashions of the oval office.

Here's a countdown to the presidents with sartorial savvy...

9. George Washington

Four score and seven years ago, the very first president proved that ruffles are for everyone. Though simple, white linen shirts were the 18th century norm, ruffles were all the rage especially among colonists of the time. Offsetting his stiff upper lip with some shirt flair, he showed that even founding fathers followed fashion trends.

George Washington, by Rembrandt Peale, ca. 1854 (From the collection of De Young Museum)

8. John F. Kennedy

Emphasizing that all suits aren’t slouchy, JFK leaned into the casual moment. Kicking it back with a subdued taupe suit, he kept true to his preppy but relaxed roots, showing off a bareheaded bravado in a time when hats were what was happening. JFK was known for his fashion sense, casual suits were his signature - always single breasted, and always buttoned - a fashion faux pas today.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Aaron Shikler, 1970 (From the collection of The White House)

7. William Howard Taft

Showcasing the tried and true combo of black and white, Taft underscored why a classic is always in style to show off any shape and size. Layering a coat, waistcoat, tie, and shirt in varying inky shades, he proved a master of mix-and-match. Taft was one of the last presidents to don facial hair, and his fur appeal didn’t stop there. He was also known to be a fan of fur collars, even wearing one on his inauguration day.

William Howard Taft, by Anders Zorn, 1911 (From the collection of The White House)

6. Franklin Pierce

Hip in a time before hipsters, Franklin popped his collar and kept his hair to one side in an easy flip. Even hipper, he embraced a messy desk that would make any housekeeper huff. Pierce was not known for his love of the spotlight, often depicted wearing the 19th century black (often satin) cravat which would later become the black tie tuxedo.

Franklin Pierce, by George Peter Alexander Healy, 1858 (From the collection of The White House)

5. Abraham Lincoln

Sporting a rakish, off-kilter bow tie and seriously focused gaze, Honest Abe was leagues ahead of his time, embracing the undone look while still looking totally presidential. His classic and conservative style consisted of signature looks which included a tailcoat and top hat which were popular during the mid-19th century. But Lincoln made them his own, being known to add a shabby-chic quality to his wardrobe with a worn look that was all his own.

Abraham Lincoln, by Alexander Gardner, November 8, 1863, printed ca. 1890 (From the collection of The Chrysler Museum of Art)

4. James K. Polk

Polk wore his pompadour hairstyle with pride way before Elvis made it famous among the masses. He teamed it with a thick, lush topcoat and layers on layers on layers of crispy white shirts. Classy, but refined, he stood out from the rest. Polk eventually traded his youthful quiff in for a mullet.

President James Knox Polk, 1824 (?) (From the collection of The Walters Art Museum)

3. Benjamin Harrison

As a luxe commander-in-chief, Harrison was off the (pocket watch) chain, indulging his love of accessorizing with his, brocade tie and stack of weighty books. Well-read and well dressed; now that’s presidential. The near turn of the century fashion style maintained a look that was lean and clean, except for the face. Although short hair was the norm, facial hair adorned most men’s faces.

Benjamin Harrison, by Eastman Johnson, 1895 (From the collection of The White House)

2. Teddy Roosevelt

Suited and booted before it was even a saying, Teddy cut a fine stylish figure, caping his coat and grasping onto a riding crop, all the better to snap back at the fashion critics of his day. Roosevelt continued the clean, debonair look and his moustache even showed hints of trends from the day, with a bit of curl to mark the times.

Theodore Roosevelt, by Adrian Lamb, 1967 copy after 1908 original by Philip Alexius de László (From the collection of Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery)

1. Andrew Jackson

A clear fan of the statement coat and the statement haircut, Jackson’s style offensive took no prisoners. Known for his wild haircuts and capes, Jackson went against the grain of the “dandy” look which was popular at the time, garnering himself top spot.

Andrew Jackson, by Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earl, c. 1835 (From the collection of The White House)
Words by Jesse Aylen
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