Sunday, 18 May 2008

On personal taste and button-down shirts

"All of us draw social inferences from the way people dress. In this, fishermen and farmers are just as snobbish as debutantes and hippies. And there is no one, however regal, however humble, who is not put off by some detail of dress he personally dislikes. I well remember the morning that one of President Kennedy's aides came in wearing a button-down shirt, an item that started in America in the very early 1930s as an Ivy League fad. It remained so until a few years ago but was swiftly abandoned when it spread to bond salesmen and airline executives and then to Midwesterners, and then to cattle ranchers in convention, and finally to Englishmen. It is still retained by ageing country-club types who have not noticed that they suddenly look old-fashioned. 'For Heaven's sake,' said Kennedy to his bewildered aide, 'take off that shirt. Nobody wears those things any more, except Chester Bowles and Adlai.'"

Alistair Cooke, October 1966

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