White Waistcoat Divides a Nation

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Barack and MittThe 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.


The Chap was founded in 1999 and is the longest-serving British magazine dedicated to the gentlemanly way of life, with its own quirky, satirical take on a style that has recently entered the mainstream.

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