Although it's three years old, I just stumbled on this excellent photoessay from TIME Magazine on JFK's personal style. It's a slideshow of pictures narrated with commentary on what made Kennedy's style so unique and influential. And it occurred to me as I was looking at these pictures that JFK's style can be seen as a combination of two huge trends in men's fashion over the last 3-4 years: traditional Americana/prep, and the '60s revival brought about in large part by the TV series Mad Men.

Left, President John F. Kennedy; right, Mad Men's Don Draper.
Look at above picture—the entire JFK slideshow, in fact—and you'll see the building blocks of Don Draper's wardrobe: narrow lapels, narrow ties, white shirts with small-proportioned point collars. But also in those pictures, especially the more casual ones, you'll see the foundational elements of classic American sportswear: button-down shirts, polos, crew-neck sweaters, khakis, sneakers, Ray-Bans.

Left, JFK; right, a page from the J.Crew September 2010 men's catalogue.
These elements are as close to timeless as you can get. They're the basic staples of the American man's wardrobe. They may pass in and out of fashion, but they are never out of style. GQ even went so far as to compile a list of "10 Things That Will Never Go Out of Style," and, while I think that it's a little too early to make a judgment call on Timberlands, I don't seriously disagree with the rest of the items they list. (Ray-Ban Wayfarers have made a rather tragic hipster comeback lately, but hopefully they'll soon return to their roots.)
Now you may argue that it's facile to compare Kennedy to a J.Crew catalogue when J.Crew doubtlessly draws conscious and perpetual inspiration from Kennedy, but in a way that's exactly the point: you can't draw perpetually from Kennedy unless there's something timeless about his clothes. And these staple clothes are the ones you'll always be able to find in stores. You could do worse than to build a wardrobe around them.

As for Mr. Draper, it could be said that the '60s skinny-suit trend is really just an iteration of the skinny-suit trend that started with Hedi Slimane and Dior Homme in the early 2000s. Really, how long were D&G (and H&M, for that matter) doing narrow lapels before Mad Men came on the air? But the Mad Men look is a little bit different: the jackets are slightly less fitted, the closures somewhat higher. The Dior Homme look was more about leanness and length and androgyny; the Mad Men look is vintage '60s, when men were men, and even a refrigerator-shaped gentleman could get away with a slender tie and lapels. I'd caution anyone against embracing it too fervently, since the pendulum is bound to swing back the other way, but I personally have one grey pinstripe slim suit from H&M in my wardrobe, and it's great fun to Draper it up with a white French-cuff shirt and a skinny black tie every now and again. All you need to top it off is a pack of Luckies, two fingers of rye, and of course, the right gel. Smashing!

...or at least, smashed.


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