#TheChapMag White Waistcoat Divides a Nation

White Waistcoat Divides a Nation

Published on October 22nd, 2012

The U.S. Presidential election became a two-horse race, and eventually it was the two candidates’ approach to wearing white tie that swung the contest in Barack Obama’s favour. He and Mitt Romney were speeding neck and neck towards the finishing line, when one small but essential detail helped voters decide whom they wanted in the White House – the white-tie waistcoat levels of the two candidates for the presidency.

In this photograph, taken at the annual Al Smith Memorial Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York, one can clearly see the difference between the Republican and Democrat approach to white tie. Romney, whose vast wealth means he should be used to attending such formal events, has at least two inches of waistcoat showing below the tips of his tail coat. He also has too many studs on his formal shirt. Barack Obama, meanwhile, cuts more of a formal dash, overall, but there are still problems: the ends of his white waistcoat are at just the correct height in relation to his tail coat, but he is showing an inch of shirt between the trousers and the waistcoat. This is just as appalling as Romney’s waistcoat length. Obama, however, wins on the shirt studs, displaying a more modest quantity.

The rules of waistcoat length are that it should cover the trouser waistband, which is generally, depending on fashions for trouser-height, around the same level as the tips of the tail coat. One would not expect a modern-day politician to wear very high-waisted trousers, appealing though that would be. But if Mr. Romney’s trousers begin where his waistcoat ends, then his trouser waistband would place him among the hoodlums of the Bronx rather than at the Waldorf-Astoria.

Neither of the candidates is wearing a shirt fit for a president; there is no evidence of boiled fronts nor even Marcella, which would be just about tolerable. Nevertheless, American voters made the right decision in choosing a candidate who at least wasn’t overdoing his dress studs.

28 Responses to “White Waistcoat Divides a Nation”

  1. The Earl of Essex says:

    As much as it pains me to say it, I fear that the third and final U.S.Presidential Debate is now but an unnecessary and pointless distraction, now that Governor Romney has committed this elementary wardrobe faux pas.

  2. Dr Twist says:

    Do these people not have advisors?

  3. James Ashby-Spencer BSc. (Plym) says:

    Please excuse my possible ignorance regarding formal wear (I’m still endeavouring to learn in this area), but do the same rules apply to formal weskits regarding the bottom button as both Mr Obama’s and Mr Romney’s lower buttons are fastened. Should the lower button only be loose in the case of informal single breasted weskits or dose it apply to their formal counterparts?
    Please don’t hesitate in correcting my observation if it proves wrong as it would help preventing me from committing such a faux pas one way or the other.

  4. KGW says:

    A poor example of American’s trying to look elegant (or is it a good example of American’s trying to look elegant?). Throw them fish I say.

  5. Dear Mr. Temple!
    This definately looks awful! But this is a problem of modern times: you either have money and no style or you have style and no money. Despite the fact that they might have advisors, Dr. Twist, those are probably young and don’t know better! Unfortunately only few people still employ a best man and here you can see the result. They don’t even wear a breast pocket handkerchief! And I’m pretty sure that their bow tie is not self tied. The shirts also look terrible with attached double collars and probably double cuffs.
    To answer Mr. Ashby-Spencer’s question: the formal waistcoat is buttoned completely. Always! And you should wear a pocket watch with no chain but a chatelaine to it.

  6. ChappistMonk says:

    The showing of at least two inches of waistcoat beneath tailcoat was de rigeur in Regency times, only last century becoming unfashionable.

    In short, the issue of visible waistcoat beneath tailcoat is like that of shawl collar versus peak lapel for dinner jackets; there is no “right” answer, it is purely a matter of fashion and personal taste.

  7. HEP says:

    Mr Ashby-Spencer: a marcella waistcoats buttons ought to be fastened, mostly because there are only three of them.

  8. James Ashby-Spencer BSc. (Plym) says:

    My sincerest thanks Mr Henry de Winter and HEP. You have both cleared that issue up for me, helping me avoid possible future embarrassment.

    I feel I also apologise for some rather sloppy grammar and spelling in my last post. I try my best to eliminate such errors before publication but the naughty imp of dyslexia sometimes hoodwinks me.

  9. Dear ChappistMonk!
    Do you mean de rigueur?
    I agree with you completely but since the 1920s it it a sacrilege and hasn’t been changed ever since.
    When it comes to collars for dinner suits I personally prefer a peak lapel with both cuts (single or double breasted) but I certainly would never wear a shawl collar on a double breasted dinner jacket.

    Dear Mr. Ashby-Spencer!
    It was a pleasure helping you to dress properly and don’t worry about your ‘sloppy grammar and spelling’: we understood you!
    Every country or tribe has it’s own way of expression! ;-)
    Just in case you should be interested: check my fb profile or my homepage at http://www.henrydewinter.de for some photographies. Or youtube for some short films.

    Best regards to you all!

    • KGW says:

      Mr Henry de Winter
      Spoken like a gentleman. Having taken a peek at your website all I can say is top notch.
      With kindest regards

  10. Great Aunt Hepzibah says:

    Delighted to see that despite the example of the American Presidential candidates, there are some gentlemen who still know how to dress properly. The execrable dress sense of most modern men is a matter of much despair to me. Mr de Winter; sloppy grammar is not, in my opinion, chap-like behaviour! We should all worry about it although some leeway is permitted, as long as one can make oneself understood, as Mr Ashby-Spencer does, most clearly. I am obliged to point out that ‘definitely’ is spelled with an ‘i’ not an ‘a’ and use of grammatical symbols to indicate a facial expression is no substitute for a thoughtfully constructed sentence. However, your dress sense is clearly impeccable which excuses a great deal.

  11. G. Claydon says:

    Besides the problems that have already been mentioned, I have the impression that both candidates wear pre-tied bow ties. In my opinion this is unacceptable. No man with a minimum of taste would ever wear a pre-tied tie, so why do so many men think a pre-tied bow tie is an option?

    • KGW says:

      Dear G. Claydon

      What you have said is absolutely correct. I can only assume that the reason so many men wear pre-tied bow ties is because they are either too lazy to tie one, are not aware of how to tie one or have reached depths below the minimum of taste you have mentioned. All of which are essential qualities for aspiring presidential candidates.

  12. reigning pandas says:

    I would have to give more kudos to Romney as I believe he does not have a full staff to dress him or get him ready for these occasions, and the president does. However, I do think one less button would have made Romney the clear winner of being a “stud!”

  13. Fortas, A.M., Air Vice Marshal (Retd) RAF says:

    Advisors have clearly been at work, Twist. Generally a smart enough turnout for civilians and I am relieved to see that Obama chappie at least deigning to wear something resembling kit fit for the Mess rather than a fez and long gown thing. No doubt there will be a riot in some middle-east country where chaps are rarely found these days. I just hope this column does not become the cause.

  14. B. G. Andersson says:

    Gentlemen – I can assure you that I appreciate your observations with the glaring exception that you chose to disparage my home borough of The Bronx. I do not know what made you think that this was needed.

    Affording you an opportunity to correct or apologize, I am

    Sincerely yours,

    B. G. Andersson

  15. Baskerville says:

    Can wholeheartedly recommend the wonderful Henry de Winters’ website ,and just downloaded some of his corking tunes via Amazon .

  16. James Ashby-Spencer BSc. (Plym) says:

    I have just seen an article in The Guardian today which can help put this in context. Our PM can’t even get it right!


  17. [...] that world leaders can no longer manage something as simple as wearing white tie. First it was Barak Obama showing too much shirt, and now our own Leader showing the right amount of shirt, but too much [...]

  18. [...] that world leaders can no longer manage something as simple as wearing white tie. First it was Barak Obama showing too much shirt, and now our own Leader showing the right amount of shirt, but too much [...]

  19. Sandyman P. Ort says:

    Beware, Beware!

    There seems to be An Agent-of-a-Foreign-Power in our midst. ‘Tis he with the name that suggests he might be a Johnny Foreigner or even a Hun! Yikes!

    What is all this about not worrying about sloppy grammar and spelling? When did that cease to be important to a chap? Who could take seriously any advice that comes from the sort that takes pictures of himself and then invites good, steady chaps to look at them? Quite!

    To suggest that a chap, having got into the full fish-and-soup outfit, abandons his watch chain for a chatelain (the clue is in the title, here) which is where his housekeeper hangs her jam-cupboard key and is a girlie kind of thing, beggars belief! The bloke must barking! Take no notice, boys!

    All very well, but to the issue at hand. It seems Mr O’Bama and his chum Mittens have got it so badly wrong, it is difficult to know where to start. The weskit-tailcoat fitting is bad enough, but those shirts! Turned down collars with white tie! I expect the shirt fronts are soft, too!

    I mean to say, white tie and soft front shirt! Turned down collars! Blimey!

    Come away, children! It’s not safe here..!

    No! Come away NOW!

  20. Sandyman P. Ort says:

    And what’s the leery old geezer in the background up to? Where are his hands, and why is Mittens grinning in that frightful I’m-getting-goosed-and-like-it fashion?

    Seems more goes on at these presidential thingies than is healthy to know. Lor’ luv’ ya!

  21. Corinna De Gruchy says:

    I simply don’t understand why we are making such a fuss! They are only Americans after all, I mean, look I don’t wish to sound like a snob, but we should have revoked their independance when we had the chance.

  22. Baron Blue says:

    You guys crack me up!

    This is by far, the best ‘Civilised’ website (absolute ridiculam) I have had the pleasure to peruse.

    Bravo Chaps,

    PS: Sandyman should run for PM.

    • Sandyman P. Ort says:

      Is there no end to what capers Resident O’Bama will get up to? I now hear he has been seen at large, cutting what he takes for a dash big stylie, by wearing white tie with a dinner jacket. Can this be true? Someone please tell me it ain’t so! Or is this what the wotsit-doodle-doos elect their White House Resident for?

      But Corinna, me darlin’, what are you on about? Who gave ‘em independance, and when? I’ve not heard nothing. Nope. Rings no bells. Will they get their own currency, do you think? Doubloons perhaps. That would be better than naming their money after a 1980s pop-band. Just imagine… Coo!

  23. Wilberforce P. Chips says:

    Regarding this whole pre-tied bow tie crisis we are experiencing in the former colonies, let me just say I’d rather see the bounders wearing one of those t-shirts with a bow tie, dinner jacket, and cummerbund printed on it! Absolute rot, what!
    In high dudgeon,

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