I’ve never made a living doing just one thing. I’ve always had side gigs here and there that supplemented my livelihood. One of my fantasy jobs would be as a wardrobe consultant for a politician, an executive or an on-camera personality. I think I’d be really good at it. 

I’ve written before about the streamlined dress code of men in power, a subject that interests me greatly. Over the course of the much-ballyhooed current election cycle (or any election cycle, now that I think about it), I can’t help mentally re-dressing the candidates. Even with the inherent sartorial constraints of American politics, which entails a lot of blue, gray, white and splashes of red, there is a lot more room for elegance without being overly flashy.

Unfortunately, the best modern example of a perfectly and appropriately dressed American politician is fictional. In season one of House of Cards, Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood really raised the bar in terms of how good a politician can look without going too far. (I restrict this qualification to the first season of the show because the costume designer for the first thirteen episodes was the incomparable Tom Broecker, a rare breed who understands the details of tailored menswear. In subsequent seasons, little things shifted with Frank’s wardrobe, and not for the better.)

Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood in House of Cards (Photo © Netflix)
Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood in House of Cards (Photo © Netflix)

The color and tailoring of Underwood’s suits, the collar, cuffs and fit of his shirts, the width of his ties, his choice of shoes… all came together to portray a man who knew his shape, cared about details and understood the subconscious effect of that knowledge, care and understanding, without looking remotely persnickety or dandyish. Frank dressed for power, looking like a strong, competent, well put-together man who had his act together. Sartorially speaking, he was a master class in understated restraint. The untrained eye wouldn’t process the details or even be consciously aware of them, but something registers with people that this is a competent, powerful man to be reckoned with.

Unfortunately, none of the candidates on the 2016 menu exude such competence on a sartorial level. The turnout is pretty grim, in fact. Between the ill-fitting suits and shirts to the perpetually unbuttoned dump swagger, no one really screams “world leader” in the wardrobe department. It’s as if someone passed a memo suggesting that refined, restrained elegance was somehow elitist, inappropriate or un-American. I beg to differ. 

If anything, the President should exude an exceptional representation of us, on both national and international stages. Along with the tailoring and attention to details, this representation should carry with it the very best that America has to offer with suits, shirts, ties, shoes, the watch… all of which are available with a “Made in the U.S.A.” label. 

The Suits

A navy and a charcoal from Hickey Freeman's Traveler Collection.
A navy and a charcoal from Hickey Freeman’s Traveler Collection.

For the suits, a terrific option comes from Hickey Freeman, a fine American suit maker that once had the stale image of a stodgy resource for boring money-guy suits. In the wake of a much needed brand refreshment, they’ve emerged as a more refined looking outfit with smart and elegant suits for discerning modern men. A great collection in their offerings is the Traveler, a smart collection of suits, blazers and pants made with luxurious wools that are designed to wear well, look wonderful and resist creasing. Whether worn on the campaign trail or around the globe once elected, the Traveler is perfect for an American President.

Another great option would be the suits from Chicago’s own Hart Schaffner Marx, who’ve supplied President Obama with suits. And the presidential home-run in American-made suit splendor would be a suit from Martin Greenfield Tailors in Brooklyn. Martin Greenfield is an Auschwitz survivor who built a life for himself in America, eventually becoming a master tailor to four U.S. presidents (Eisenhower, Ford, Clinton and Obama).

Martin Greenfield
Martin Greenfield

Whether a suit is made in the U.S. or elsewhere, most wool suiting fabric comes from Italy. The ultimate grand-slam for a president or candidate would be a Greenfield suit made with wool from American Woolen Company, the country’s only producer of truly exquisite suiting woolens and worsteds.

The Shirts


With shirts, I’d look to the “Made in the U.S.A.” offerings from Brooks Brothers in fine Egyptian cotton. Their shirts with what they call a “Tennis Collar” are a happy medium between a straight-point and a spread collar, which is a pretty good slam dunk with most face shapes. I’d go for several in white and some in light blue, including a few with barrel cuffs and some with French cuffs. No non-iron shirts here. Even on the road, a President or candidate should have a dresser traveling with him, and this dresser should also be responsible for keeping shirts clean, fresh and ironed. (Any working wardrobe assistant or dresser who doesn’t know how to iron is overemployed.)

The Ties

Selections from Brooks Brothers' Made-in-America collection.
Selections from Brooks Brothers’ Made-in-America collection.

Brooks Brothers also makes some fine American-made neckwear. An assortment of simple, elegant and understated stripes, textures and patterns in varying shades of blue is ideal. Other choices with judicious splashes of black, white or red would be good, too.

A blue tie from General Knot (left) and a striped tie from Fine and Dandy.
A blue tie from General Knot (left) and a striped tie from Fine and Dandy.

In support of small businesses, I would also look at the wonderful, more “Presidential” selections from smaller American specialists like General Knot and Fine and Dandy.

The Watch


Speaking of smaller businesses with a great American story behind them, a great watch from Shinola is a no-brainer. Who doesn’t love the Detroit comeback story behind this brand? But beyond the romantic narrative is a collection of really well-made timepieces. A few of them are particularly handsome “power watches” without being too over-the-top. One can imagine a foreign leader noticing the President’s watch and saying “So this is from your Shinola in Detroit? I must get one for myself.” Win. (Read my story on the perfect watch for an American President.)

The Shoes


I have two favorites here: Alden in Massachusetts and Allen Edmonds in Wisconsin, both of whom have been making beautiful hand-crafted shoes for generations. For a president or candidate, I’d go with plain oxfords in dark brown and black, a Chukka boot in burgundy and perhaps a cap toe or wingtip in dark brown or black as well, depending on the style and personality of the individual. For the candidate who is on his feet a lot on the road, I might even consider the rubber soled versions, which both companies make. Shoes from both of these fine American brands are bulletproof classics that will last a lifetime. (Read my post on dress shoe basics, including Alden and Allen Edmonds.)

While the selections I suggest above aren’t as cheap as other options that are manufactured overseas and may seem like a betrayal to the average American who cannot afford a $1200 suit or a $600 pair of shoes, they are fabulous showcases of expert domestic manufacturing. They’re working examples of fine craftsmanship made possible by our very own. A President armed in a beautifully tailored suit, a crisp well-fitting shirt, a handsome tie, an elegant watch and a pair of timeless shoes – all made in the U.S.A. – would be a striking representation of the United States of America at our very best. 

(And if a candidate needs a guy to handle all of this for him, particularly once in office, I happen to be a very available, capable and resourceful American.)


** With respect to Hillary Clinton, I’m not qualified to even comment. Women’s wear is not my area. She would be wise, however, to seek the counsel of the brilliant Patricia Field, who unforgettably dressed our Sex and the City ladies (including attorney and firm partner Miranda Hobbes) and Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. Pat is brilliant and would have Hillary looking smarter, more sophisticated and more competent than she’s ever looked, without sacrificing her femininity.


    • George

      Some of their shoes. Not the whole line.

  1. Agree on all points save for the watches, whose styling simply does not exude presidential elegance. I would go with something more understated and classic, even if it means looking overseas. Many, many things are proudly “Made In America,” even if they are sourced elsewhere. (Being an immigrant myself, I can identify with this principle.)

  2. Ann Payne

    Great piece! Thanks for including the little guys too!

  3. DJ (The original)

    One thing we females love about Michelle Obama is her fabulous sense of style! She’s the Jackie O. of our generation! Of course, there’s lots to love about Michelle. The woman is awesome inside and out.

    I really haven’t paid that much attention to the details of our president’s style, because I’m usually focused on what his gorgeous wife is wearing, or their two darling daughters, but he always looks classic and elegant to me. As for our candidates, I would love to see a stylist get hold of Bernie Sanders, but I don’t know if you can tame that passionate hair! And he’s never been about money or fitting in with the trust fund/country club set, so in that sense, his rumpled style suits him. Kinda reminds me of “Columbo”.

    There’s nothing you can do with Trump. All that money and he looks like a used car salesman from Jersey.

    I feel for poor Hillary. If she wear something that (gasp!) shows she’s female, she gets slammed by the right for being “too sexy”. But her pantsuits are “too mannish”. Yet Sarah Palin was outfitted in spiked, pointy slut shoes and tight sexy outfits and no one complained. That is, until they saw the bill. Of course, no one was looking to Sarah for her intelligence; they only trotted her out in hopes of getting some male votes!