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WaPo Style Writer Declares Kennedy Old-Money Style Only Cool on Liberals

2:25 PM, Aug 31, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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Washington Post Style writer Robin Givhan has a reputation for occasionally channeling her political predilections in petty fashion critiques of certain Washington actors. George Bush's hair is a "dull gray thatch," but Kerry should "gloat" over his "silver" mop, and John Edwards' mane "demands to be nuzzled."

Katherine Harris' make-up precipitated a famous reverie upon how mascara application might affect her application of the law:

"At this moment that so desperately needs diplomacy, understatement and calm, one wonders how this Republican woman, who can't even use restraint when she's wielding a mascara wand, will manage to use it and make sound decisions in this game of partisan one-upmanship."

This week, the Pulitzer-winning critic waxes predictably poetic about the be-Dockered and deck-shoed style of the Kennedys, obviously nostalgic for the "look of rich tradition" and refinement embodied by the kids from Hyannisport. She bemoans the inability of the modern American politician to wear it without apology (or, rather, the American people's alleged inability to countenance a look of easy affluence).

She wasn't nearly as nostalgic in her pettiest of attacks, in 2005's "An image a little too carefully coordinated," which took aim at John Roberts, his wife, and his two knee-high children. What was their sin, you might ask? Flip-flops at the White House? Tony Hawk t-shirts and Ninja Turtle shorts? No, their transgression was apparently trying to achieve "refinement" without being Democrats. What was the look of rich tradition on the Kennedys became "syrupy nostalgia" on Roberts' family:

When President Bush announced his choice for the next associate justice of the Supreme Court, it was hard not to marvel at the 1950s-style tableau vivant that was John Roberts and his family.

On the Kennedys, such fashion was a "style of dress that might best be described as both aristocratic and democratic," a mix Givhan regrets is "virtually impossible today, at least on the political stage."

But when Roberts' son Jack wore an "ensemble that calls to mind John F. "John-John" Kennedy Jr.," Givhan declared it "not classic" but "old-fashioned. These clothes are Old World, old money and a cut above the light-up/shoe-buying hoi polloi."

The verdict, on the Kennedys: "The modern fashion industry has argued that clothes can make a man look rich. Those images of the Kennedys recall the days when it was assumed that a man did that for his clothes."


The verdict, on the Roberts family: "In their attire, there was nothing too informal; there was nothing immodest. There was only the feeling that, in the desire to be appropriate and respectful of history, the children had been costumed in it."

In bemoaning the loss of Kennedy style, Givhan stumbled upon the double standard, but ignored her part in perpetuating it:

But the Kennedys were mostly grandfathered in. Bad behavior was incorporated into the myth. It's hard to think of any political family that so publicly lived a life of luxury with little comment. The Bushes of Kennebunkport certainly revealed their patrician background, but it was met with plenty of comment . . . and criticism and derision.

Indeed, the "comment, criticism, and derision" for that look and lifestyle extended even to the patent-leather shoes of Bush nominees' pre-school children. Gee, I wonder why we don't see more of it, Robin?