Leo McGarry – The Savile Row Wearing King of The West Wing

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If I’ve spoken to you over this past week or so, you probably could’ve seen this post coming from a mile away, because I’ll admit I don’t think there’s been an waking hour that’s gone by since the start of the new year that I haven’t brought up The West Wing. For about ten days now, thanks to Netflix’s ever so wise decision to finally buck up and offer Aaron Sorkin’s political masterpiece (which all of you should check out if you have the chance) I’ve been fortunate enough to spend the majority of my days basking in the liberal utopia that is The West Wing.  While I love The West Wing, and I’d like to believe that it accurately portrayals the inner workings of our political system, I’m not naive, it is still television after all and it’s no secret that the show takes it’s fair share of liberties with history.  Yet, one area where it is not off base is in the attire of the president and his team.  President Josiah Bartlett and rest of his staff dress like pretty much all modern day politicians: lame, cookie cutter, stagnant, and all around average.  As with any rule though, there is one large exception, and that’s John Spencer’s character, White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry.

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Throughout the entire series (spoiler alerts notwithstanding) McGarry, and his trademark double-breasted suits, act as the singular antidote to The West Wing’s perpetual case of the blahs.  While the majority of the characters amble around in over-sized suits begging for a trip to the cleaners, never straying too far from flat colors, McGarry exists in a league of his own.  The show’s script contains a wardrobe note that states that all of McGarry’s suits are Savile Row, and while we are dealing with fiction here, I’d believe it.  McGarry comes armed each episode with strong peak lapels, low button stances, and broad shoulders, all features that are very indicative of Savile Row bespoke.  His suits alone would’ve been enough to make McGarry stand out in The West Wing’s sea of bland outfits, but what really sets him apart is what surrounds the suits.  Each episode McGarry pulls off this balancing act with his pocket square, and tie combos, bringing together dots, stripes, solids, and paisleys in a way that could make Lord Glenconner blush.

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As a veteran with more years in politics than a lot of peers have even been alive, McGarry is The West Wing’s endangered species.  A holdover from a bygone political era, McGarry represents the last of a dying breed: the well-dressed politician.  In the wake of this past year’s presidential election, there was a lot of chatter about how poorly both candidates presented themselves and it’s because politicians simply don’t dress with any spirit anymore.  Personality has been replaced by shallow choices dictated by what “looks presidential,” which is a nicer way of saying, “how can we take all the character out of a candidates clothes to make them look as politically correct as possible.”  McGarry had this air of distinction that could be seen in each and every stitch, silk pocket square, and pinstripe, and it’s a damn shame that nowadays politics have replaced style with sterility.

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7 comments
  1. PW said:

    Great post, I absolutely agree with you about Leo. I always thought he looked great even when down to shirtsleeves and braces. Who would you pick as the worst dressed in the Bartlet White House? I think it has to be Josh.

    • I would definitely have to say Josh, he was the ultimate schlubby aide

    • PW said:

      Oh, one thing I just remembered however was that I was not a fan of Leo’s evening dress. If I recall he often wore five-button waistcoats in gaudy silks?

  2. Neil said:

    Mandy from the first season was pretty terrible, Josh is an obvious one but i’d argue Leo’s secretary Margaret holds the position of worst dressed. Do we recall the “lift-off” episode?
    – @yukonneil

  3. Mason said:

    http://bit.ly/ZFxpiX A plug for Toby with a great tie knot, grey button-down with a pretty good roll, and a 90’s style color-coordinated jacket. S2E4.

    Always dig your content, regardless of website.

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