OK, that an Onion headline. In other words, a joke. It’s the punchline; now for the setup.
It used to be that Brooks Brothers was popular shorthand for the establishment, showing up in lyrics for “Harvard Blues” and the libretto for “Guys And Dolls.” Even in the year 2000 “the Brooks Brothers riot” was coined to refer to the Republican voting recount during the presidential election.
But perhaps because Brooks is worn equally by both parties, or because it no longer symbolizes the WASP establishment — or because such an establishment barely exists anymore — the brand is not serving as shorthand for well aged curmudgeons on the right. At least not this week.
What is? Tassel loafers and bow ties.
Earlier this week I was watching a news clip online and was shocked to hear an old correspondent quoted at length by the assemlage of talking heads. Michael Brendan Dougherty is a longtime Ivy Style reader and e-mail colleague, and he’s now with the publication The Week. He wrote an essay on how the rise of someone like Trump could was predicted 20 years ago. The piece was widely shared and quoted, and the passage that seemed to get the most traction, especially on TV, was the one in which Dougherty got to show off his sartorial knowledge:
What so frightens the conservative movement about Trump’s success is that he reveals just how thin the support for their ideas really is. His campaign is a rebuke to their institutions. It says the Republican Party doesn’t need all these think tanks, all this supposed policy expertise. It says look at these people calling themselves libertarians and conservatives, the ones in tassel-loafers and bow ties. Have they made you more free? Have their endless policy papers and studies and books conserved anything for you? These people are worthless. They are defunct. You don’t need them, and you’re better off without them.
You also probably heard this week that Ivy Style Hall of Famer William F. Buckley’s magazine the National Review drew plenty of criticism for its anti-Trump issue, which seemed as much about reiterating the magazine’s own ideology to whomever might be listening as it was about skewering the populist politician.
Now this morning I catch a story about Teddy Roosevelt Mallach, descendant of the 26th President and author of the new book “Davos, Aspen, and Yale: My Life Behind the Elite Curtain as a Global Sherpa.” Mallach goes after National Review and the old guard of aging conservative pundits, George Will specifically, and guess what article of clothing he chooses to mock them with?
Will would have to close his swank salon in upscale Chevy Chase and come to the realization that we no longer inhabit the quaint 18th century world that so enthralls Will and his toney, all talk, no action ilk. His brand of politics and talk shows ad nauseam would come to an end. He might have to sell all his dated bow ties at the Episcopal Church secondhand auction…
As was recently discussed in the comments section here, clothing send signals. And as this is an election year, be careful what you wear. — CC