John Fitzgerald Kennedy — the 35th President of the United States and a picture of casual American elegance — was born 100 years ago today. And to mark politics’ greatest ever style icon, we reflect on seven of his sartorial signatures.
JFK learned the value of a good suit on Savile Row when his father was the US ambassador in London in the late 1930s, and his well-tailored worsted pinstripe suits — always with a slimming single-breasted, two-button jacket — were a staple of his time in the White House. Kennedy also know how to confidently rock a bowtie on formal occasions, and a long overcoat when the temperature dipped.
Simplicity was JFK’s formalwear signature, rarely departing from a plain white shirt with a short pointed collar paired with a simple patterned tie and accessorised with basic oval cufflinks and a pocket square. The ties were always thin, often with a piece of standalone embroidery or stripes in muted, classic colours like blue, red, grey, and black.
Kennedy — America’s youngest ever president — was the first to invite the public into his private life with snaps of family vacations to the beach, appearing in clothes a little more relaxed than a suit and tie (a novelty for a POTUS half a century ago). The Harvard graduate was a master of Ivy League prep, with a wardrobe full of chino trousers, plain white button downs, woven belts, cable-knit sweaters, tweed sports jackets, and pastel polos.
Those tortoiseshell wayfarers that Kennedy popularised will never go out of style, working with all face shapes because they’re not too round nor too square, and their deep golden colour generates a flattering warm glow. And, myth busted: contrary to popular belief, Kennedy’s iconic shades were not Ray-Bans, but rather American Optical Saratoga sunglasses from his home state Massachusetts.
One of JFK’s most powerful style lessons? You can never go wrong with a pair of simple black pointed-toe Oxfords and over-the-calf socks with your suit. On weekends, though, JFK’s preppy New England style extended to his footwear with a pair of boat shoes sans socks, or even simple white sneakers with statement socks.
Kennedy wore an flat, rectangular, 18-carat gold Omega Ultra Thin ref. OT3980 on a black leather strap during his time in office, which now sits in the Omega Museum in Switzerland after being secured at auction in 2005 for a lazy US$350,000 (AU$473,000). But his watch collection didn’t end there, being gifted timepieces by women at every turn: a Bulova by a female admirer in 1941, a Cartier by wife Jackie O in 1953, then an engraved Rolex from Marilyn Monroe in 1962.
Tousled sandy hair was one of JFK’s signatures — but it’s what wasn’t on his head that made such a statement. Ditching a hat in an era of trilbies, fedoras, homburgs and pork pies dealt a huge blow to the male headwear industry, leading a new generation of men who wanted to let their hair roam free.