John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the first television president. It was the advent of the 1960s – the Mad Men era – when his debate with Richard Nixon was the first to be televised, making the Kennedy presidency the first to be covered on television in its entirety, from its beginning to its violent premature end.
Some believe that Kennedy won the first debate because he made a more attractive visual presentation than Nixon to the television audience, while some who listened to the debate on the radio actually felt that Nixon made a better show. Regardless, it was a new era – an era of television – where appearances would matter more than ever.
However one felt about him or his politics, one could not deny that Jack Kennedy possessed powerful charm, enormous appeal and looks that the camera loved. He was a glamorous package that even Frank Sinatra couldn’t resist.
He also had style. With an effortless look that betrayed a privileged New England upbringing and a Harvard education, Kennedy’s iconic Ivy League style came to represent a distinctly American sophistication and masculine glamour that was rooted in Brooks Brothers and has continued to influence the likes of Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Thom Browne and others.
His style, both dress and casual, has influenced all of us, really, whether we’re aware of it or not. With enormous media exposure in a new television age with bold color photographs – combined with a virtual canonization by a nation gutted by his tragic end – President Kennedy and his legacy wielded an unprecedented style influence and established an image and a template to which many American men aspire to this day.