Preppy aesthetics mastered
Etiquette and effortless chic for the all-time style icon John Fitzgerald Kennedy
August 62, John Island, Maine. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, then the 35th President of the United States of America, cruises quietly with his movie-star, rat pack-affiliated friend and brother-in-law Peter Lawford in an outfit that would still be considered today as the exact definition of cool.
The man is wearing Wayfarer sunglasses, an aviator jacket on a grey crew neck sweater and beige chino, royal blue socks and white tennis shoes. Halfway through a dramatically aborted presidential mandate that would not even last 3 years, he is writing the legend that will make him one of the most popular President in American history. Mostly through an impeccable taste, iconic charisma and a perfect crafting of his public image.
Born to a wealthy Catholic family from Boston, he is quick to understand how using the medias could accelerate his race to power. United States Senator for Massachusetts at only 36, he does not waste too much time trying to get the favors of the Democrat Party. His focus goes on convincing the people. No stranger to camera, he uses the emergence of television as the dominant mass-media to tell the story of a calm, resolute and confident family man ready to bring the country to new heights. His lovely wife Jacqueline Lee Bouvier completes the picture of the first - and still unrivaled - most glamorous couple in US politics.
In 1960, America witnessed the first series of presidential debates ever broadcasted on US television. A warm, confident and seductive Kennedy confronted an offensive, harsh and surly Nixon. In a country engaged in the Cold War, dealing with a growing conflict in Vietnam and shaken by the struggle for civil rights on its soil, Kennedy is the confident and reassuring leader people need. And in this process, his understated yet impeccable dressing style has been key.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s style is a modern take on the preppy aesthetics. Inspired by the college uniforms and sports attire seen of the campuses of the Ivy League, the preppy wardrobe is made of convenient, comfortable and practical clothes. In Kennedy’s hands, it becomes a powerful tool to tell stories.
Determined as Head of State in his bespoke suits from Brooks Brothers, he appears as an elegant man of the world wearing a crew neck sweater and chino on Manitou - the presidential yacht - or as a loving father in a comforting cardigan reading the papers in his Hamptons house. Kennedy knows the power of image. Through basic pieces declined in shades of grey, white, sand and blue, he recites the preppy alphabet learnt on the benches of Princeton and Harvard with maestria. As he would with words in a public speech, he does with clothes to craft his message.
Above anything else, the man is a master of etiquette. From his friendships with Frank Sinatra and the rat pack to his so-called acquaintances with the mob, from the minorities who massively voted for him in 1960 and the media who scrutinised his each and every steps, he charmed everyone along the way. His brief affair with Marylin Monroe completes the picture.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy will remain in pop culture as the perfect illustration of relaxed confidence and laid-back sophistication.
Cause they were right, less is really more.