Most politicians are almost always in a suit, always looking formal. Even when they try to dress down (ahem, Mitt Romney’s mom jeans), they really can’t pull it off. So we decided to round up those distinguished gents—living and dead—who look most dapper from state dinners to the campaign trail.
Whenever anyone wants to romanticize a presidential term, they look to the JFK administration. It was called “Camelot” even though it was one of the most tumultuous times in modern American history, and that’s because JFK made it look easy. Our youngest elected president embodied a timeless preppy New England style that totally worked for him.
Like JFK, Obama assumed office when he was relatively young, immediately breathing some style back into the White House. And while he’s not immune to ill-fitting jeans or high-waisted khakis, Obama effortlessly rocks slim-fit suits while other politicians continue to trudge around DC in baggy relics from the ’90s. Also, standing next to Michelle helps. Michelle always looks killer.
Clinton has the unfortunate distinction of holding office during the ’90s, a decade when nobody looked good. Historians will look back on the 1990s and think there was a mass genocide of tailors going on—everything was ill-fitting. But here’s the thing: Bill made the baggy suits work for him (just ask all the ladies he, uh, “worked with”). And since we’ve largely forgiven him for his personal indiscretions, we can probably forgive him for those too-short running shorts, too.
Amid the sideshow that is the current Republican presidential primary race, Florida senator Marco Rubio looks polished where most of the other clowns look, well, clownish. Trump started wearing a dopey “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” hat to keep his pseudo-hair in place, but Rubio has newscaster locks—always perfect, even in gale-force winds. You can hardly find photos of Rubio in anything but a dark suit and tie, and that’s likely a calculated move. He almost looks too good.
Former mayor of Newark and current New Jersey senator, Booker is young, incredibly progressive (he’s a vegan!), and chummy with President Obama. Booker’s political success is likely related to his casual nature, which can feel approachable. Who wears a tie in Newark? Nobody (unless they’re on their way to court). That’s why you’ll see Booker forgo the tie more than most politicians, favoring the suit jacket and open-necked dress shirt option—and making it look good.
Reagan may have been the oldest person to ever to take office (he was 69 at the start), but The Gipper ushered in a certain kind of old Hollywood glamour that worked during the ’80s, when everything was about over-the-top glamour (and cocaine). And while Nancy gets credit for popularizing “Reagan Red,” Ronnie embodied a certain kind of dapper masculinity—broad-shouldered dark suits and tie-and-pocket-square combo while at the White House, and denim and cowboy hat casual when he was at home on the ranch.
While it’s fun to focus on Dubya and his dusty Texas cowboy swagger, it’s his father who holds the title of being the most stylish Bush. The embodiment of New England prep, HW has been sporting tweed blazers, collared shirts, and shawl-neck sweaters since his days at Yale. Sure, when he was working (and puking on foreign dignitaries), he wore suits, but his off-duty attire was on point. He’s still into fashion today, at 91 years old, showing off his statement socks from his wheelchair.
If you don’t agree that Teddy Roosevelt was the most badass president in American history, think about this—he served as president while sporting a handlebar mustache. And whether he was wearing a tweed suit with all of the trappings of the time or a cowboy outfit while messing around with the Rough Riders, Roosevelt looked decidedly rugged. The lesson? If you carry yourself with enough authority, you can pretty much wear, do and say anything you want and everyone will still love you.
The New York Governor is a lifelong New Yorker with Italian roots, so it’s no surprise he likes to don expensive Italian suits studded with accessories like gold cufflinks and silk pocket squares. Even in photos of him relaxing at home with his lovely lady, Food Network’s Sandra Lee, he’s wearing a button-down, sans tie, which might be as casual as he gets.
It’s easy to rag on Schwarzenegger—his bodybuilding roots, his indiscretions, Batman & Robin—but when he took office as the Governor of California, he got pretty damn dapper. Of course, his suits cost more than your house and would probably fit you like one, but that’s not the point. The guy who played the Terminator looked good in a suit, and anyone who’s big and/or tall knows that’s no easy feat.
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