JFK: Style that defined an era


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JFK: Style that defined an era


John F Kennedy's sartorial influence extends far beyond his time in office as his approach to style was a seamless blend of classic elegance and modern flair, a combination that not only captivated the American public but also set new standards in presidential fashion


Touseful Islam

Publisted at 9:25 AM, Thu May 30th, 2024

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John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK), the 35th President of the United States, remains an enduring icon not just for his political legacy but also for his timeless sartorial influence. 

Yesterday was his birth anniversary; and though he was assassinated on 22 November, 1963, John F Kennedy's sartorial influence extends far beyond his time in office. 

His approach to style was a seamless blend of classic elegance and modern flair, a combination that not only captivated the American public but also set new standards in presidential fashion. 

Kennedy’s wardrobe was a potent mix of meticulous tailoring, thoughtful accessories, and a confident, relaxed demeanour. 

Silhouette of the 60s

JFK's wardrobe was a masterclass in understated elegance. 

He favoured slim-cut, single-breasted suits in muted colours such as navy, charcoal, and grey. 

These suits, often crafted by American tailors like Brooks Brothers, epitomised a clean, streamlined silhouette that became a hallmark of 1960s men's fashion. 

Kennedy’s preference for slimmer cuts marked a departure from the fuller, boxier suits of the 1950s, signalling a shift towards a more modern aesthetic.

One of the most iconic elements of Kennedy’s style was his choice of ties. 

He often opted for polka dots or stripes, which complemented the simplicity of his suits. 

The narrow width of his ties further accentuated the streamlined look, making a subtle yet powerful statement. This attention to detail extended to his shirts as well—typically white or light blue, with a button-down collar that exuded both professionalism and approachability.

Kennedy’s influence was not confined to formal wear. His off-duty style was equally impactful, epitomising the concept of casual elegance. 

Whether sailing on the family yacht or strolling through Hyannis Port, JFK’s casual attire was a study in effortless sophistication. 

He popularised the Nantucket Reds—a distinctive shade of faded red pants—that became synonymous with East Coast preppy style. Paired with navy blazers, cable-knit sweaters, and boat shoes, this look encapsulated a laid-back yet refined aesthetic.

The casual JFK was also often seen sporting khakis, polo shirts, and Ray-Ban Wayfarers. His choice of eyewear, in particular, became a significant fashion statement. 

The Wayfarers, with their bold lines and classic shape, complemented his strong features and added an air of cool confidence. 

This combination of casual and chic elements in his wardrobe resonated with a generation eager for a more relaxed approach to style without sacrificing sophistication.

Media’s love affair with the modish man

JFK’s sartorial influence was amplified by the media of his time. 

The advent of television and the proliferation of photojournalism meant that Kennedy’s image was constantly in the public eye. 

His fashion choices were scrutinised, emulated, and admired, turning him into a style icon. The 1960 televised debates between Kennedy and Nixon serve as a prime example. 

Kennedy’s polished appearance, contrasted with Nixon’s less photogenic presence, highlighted the importance of image in the television age and underscored the role of fashion in public perception.

Moreover, Kennedy's use of fashion extended to diplomatic engagements. 

His tailored suits and careful accessorising during state visits and meetings with foreign leaders conveyed a message of sophistication, strength, and modernity. 

This sartorial diplomacy not only reinforced his personal brand but also projected an image of a youthful, dynamic America on the global stage.

Dressing the decades that came

Decades after his presidency, JFK’s influence on fashion remains palpable. Designers continue to draw inspiration from his style, reinterpreting his looks for contemporary audiences. 

The slim-cut suits, the polished yet relaxed aesthetic, and the emphasis on quality and fit are principles that persist in modern menswear.

Preppy style that Kennedy popularised has evolved but still retains its core elements, as seen in brands like Ralph Lauren and J Crew. 

The resurgence of vintage fashion has also brought JFK’s iconic pieces, such as the Wayfarers and the Nantucket Reds, back into vogue.  His approach to casual wear laid the groundwork for the smart-casual dress code that dominates today’s fashion landscape.

His impeccable taste, attention to detail, and ability to blend classic and modern elements have left an indelible mark on fashion. 

JFK’s style was not just about clothing; it was a reflection of his character—confident, charismatic, and forward-thinking – a reminder that true style is not about following trends but about embodying one's unique identity with grace and elegance.


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