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JFK

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For a writer, or for someone such as myself who attempts to string sentences together into something intelligible, the greatest gift you can receive is a reminder of the triviality of your own work. I’ve written about JFK so many times that I feel like I know the man. Or I at least know the persona that John Fitzgerald Kennedy wanted the American public to become familiar with, yet the truth is everything I’ve ever penned about our thirty-five president could easily be classified as trite.

When writing about bygone historical figures, especially when discussing something as narrow as style, everything boils down to projection. I will never know if JFK dressed, or looked as he did as a conscious move, or if his status as a “style icon” is simply a byproduct of good genes and the standards of dress that existed during his lifetime.

I don’t intend to discredit all of my writing, nor all of the pieces that have been composed about JFK’s style over the years, for his attire was certainly not without merit. Especially when looking back, Kennedy’s style certainly had more than a little to do with his immortal status. JFK (and the same could be said for RFK) quite simply looked as a president should – dignified, but not stuffy like a monarch, and yet also spirited. If ever there was a politician that looked like hope it was JFK.

But what lies beneath all that? And more importantly, why am I bogging down your Friday afternoon with this essay. Last night, I read Chris Jones’ marvelous account of Kennedy’s assassination for Esquire, and I felt compelled to respond here today. Jones’ report is as thorough of a story as I’ve ever read, and I can only speculate how many hours of interviews and footage he had to scour through to piece together the complete tale (complete almost feels like too weak of a word to describe the piece.) I implore you all to read his report, because for as much coverage as JFK’s assassination has received over the years, I’ve never seen an account that takes such an exhaustive look at those that were closest to the President.

This is not the time or the place, so I’ll leave out my misguided lefty dreams about the possibilities for this country if JFK (or once again for that matter RFK) had never been assassinated. What I can say is that it was not Kennedy’s sack suits, nor his impeccable collar roll, nor his Shetland sweaters, that captivated this nation, and leaves his untimely death as an unhealed wound, ready to be reopened at any time.

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The high temperature today is sixty degrees. A couple days ago that figure was in the forties. A week ago we saw temperatures hit the mid-seventies and for all I know a week from now it could either be thirty-two or a hundred-two. Lately, it seems as if the word “spring,” has been rendered meaningless, acting as little more than a taunting memory of a mythical time of year when the weather is actually enjoyable. Or at the very least reliable.

Now I chose to live in this East Coast climate, so I can’t place the blame anywhere except squarely upon myself. But that doesn’t stop me from begrudging the weather gods on those mercurial mornings that make my favorite season seem so far away. Of course, it’s not spring that I’m referring to here, it’s a far more important time of year: popover season. If you’ve been following my work for Esquire.com, you’ll already well aware that there’s something about April and the changing of the weather that restarts my obsession with the half-placket shirt. While the popover’s origins remain nearly impossible to pin down, the shirt was widely documented throughout the mid-century Ivy heyday as a favorite item for Hollywood’s more sartorial minded figures. Yet the most legendary popover moment belongs not to a star of the silver screen, but to a man whose name is inescapable in the sphere of men’s style – Gianni Agnelli.

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