President Kennedy's Shirts

Charles Dana

Honors Member
Former CBS/NBC newsman Roger Mudd has recently published his memoris (The Place To Be). In one chapter, he writes that because he was stuck in an airport terminal phoning in a radio report, he was late getting to Air Force One as JFK was beginning a trip. By the time Mudd reached the President's plane, the stairway to the rear door (which the members of the press used) had already been removed. JFK's press secretary, Pierre Salinger, allowed Mudd to use the front staircase, which the President used. Mudd writes: "Up [the stairs] I came, out of breath and sweating. To get to my seat in the rear I had to pass through the presidential quarters. There stood the president of the United States himself, with Salinger grinning and hovering, ready to pounce if I dared ask a question. I dared not. The president stepped aside to let me pass....As I slipped by, I noticed that there were shelves in the space usually used for coats--shelf after shelf of shirts, stacks of freshly laundered presidential shirts. There must have been four dozen of them. Only later did I learn that Kennedy put on a fresh shirt each and every time he deplaned from Air Force One for a public appearance."

I have read elsewhere that JFK would change his clothes--shirt, suit, underwear--several times a day.
 
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The Gabba Goul

Elite Member
ummmm yeah...alot of people change clothes frequently...I change at least twice a day...sometimes even more than that...nobody's writing a book about me...

and as far as wearing a fresh shirt after a plane ride...well that only makes sense...if I had the ability to, I would do the same...especially if I had hundreds of people taking pictures of me every time I stepped off of a plane...I bet alot of preidents do this...
 

LoneWolf

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
I read that he showered several times a day. It follows that whatever was driving that behavior would compel multiple outfit changes. It wouldn't occur to me to change shirts on a plane - I'm sure that the cabin in AF One is kept at precisely the temperature at which the POTUS is most comfortable, and he's going to be wearing a suit coat when he steps off the plane - there aren't going to be a lot of visible wrinkles.

Off topic but keeping with the title of the thread, I read that when JFK Jr. married, he was wearing one of his father's shirts.
 

medwards

Honored Professor | Moderator, All Forums
I'm sure that the cabin in AF One is kept at precisely the temperature at which the POTUS is most comfortable...

Aircraft and air travel were very different in the early 1960's. In fact, though President Eisenhower did fly on some 707's at the end of his presidency, Air Force One really didn't enter the jet age until November of 1962 when the Kennedy White House took delivery of some new, specially-designed, medium range Boeing 707's. On board climate control was not as sophisticated as it is today (nor was climate control in other venues including automobiles, office settings, and public buildings). President Kennedy's comfort was also affected by his back and by the backbrace that he often wore to ameliorate the pain but which was cumbersome, warm and took a toll on his clothing. Of course, Mrs. Kennedy did make an attempt at increasing the interior ambience of the aircraft ;)
 

hmhill

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
I read in an article of few years ago that Senator John Tower would wear shirts with detachable collars, so he could just change the collars instead of the entire shirt.

Max
 

AMVanquish

Senior Member
I'm surprised the thread has gone this long without anyone pondering whether the shirt changes and showers had to do with cameras or the scent of cheap perfume. Or maybe Lonewolf was alluding to it, I'm not sure.

Does anyone know if JFK wore a specific brand of shirt, or were they all made by a personal tailor?

I guess that was the style back then, but I always remember seeing him in those narrow, soft collars(the points sometimes sticking up terribly.) Bill Buckley did the same up to the 90's. I always found the look a little sloppy, for my own tastes. But with so many legions of admirers, I guess there's something to that look.
 

Relayer

Super Member
Reminds me of my TI when I was in basic training, Sgt Panamarenko. He was a mean SOB, but he always presented a super-sharp appearance in uniform, even if it was (starched and pressed) BDUs. Of course, all TIs were expected to look very sharp, but he was always extraordinarily so. I think he changed at least 2-3 completed uniforms per day, sometimes more depending on the San Antonio heat and our activities. Helluva man.
 

Concordia

Elite Member
The Warren Commission had a pic of the striped shirt he wore in Dallas. I believe it was a Jermyn Street maker, but I don't remember precisely.
 

Mitchell

Senior Member
I read in an article of few years ago that Senator John Tower would wear shirts with detachable collars, so he could just change the collars instead of the entire shirt.

Max

I know that Senator Tower wore stiff collars, but I don't think that it was for convenience of changing them. I wear stiff collars and if I change a collar, I change the shirt. Sen. Tower was an impecable dresser.
 

Relayer

Super Member
Brooks Brothers?

A quick check of the Kennedy Library (jfklibrary.org) produces the following regarding Kennedy suit and shirts preferences (fwiw and despite the unfortunate grammatical error):

*
John F. Kennedy's Shirt and Suit Preferences

There is nothing in the library files to indicate John F. Kennedy's exact personal preferences or with whom he order his clothing; however, according to Dave Powers, the President's friend and assistant, President Kennedy wore Brooks Brothers shirts and single-breasted, conservatively cut suits from Saville Row. He seemed to also prefer them blue pin-striped in design.

This is not to say that he did not use other "brands" or tailors, but according to Mr. Powers, these were the most popular choices.
*
 

Will

Honors Member
In former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown's recent biography he writes that he often changed as many as four times a day, and so does anyone who makes frequent public appearances.

It's more than just wrinkles. When you're going from even to event you may want to increase or decrease the formality of what you're wearing so as not to look inappropriate. The clothes that work at an ice cream social may not be right for a funeral and ther'll be photographers at each place.
 

Tom Buchanan

Super Member
This is interesting. I read a Robert F. Kennedy biography once that said that he routinely traveled with six fresh starched shirts, so that he could change his shirt before each appearance.

As medwards alludes, this was before modern air conditioning, and candidates generally kept their jackets on.

morbid trivia - RFK's autopsy states that he was wearing a shirt by K. Wragge of 46th Street, NY.
 

medwards

Honored Professor | Moderator, All Forums
K. Wragge Inc. was a custom shirtmaker located first at #16 and later at #48 West 46th St.
 

Lookingforaclue

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
My mother would never vote for Kennedy because, she said, when he was in college his cuffs were dirty every time she saw him.

Maybe he heard.:)

SRW
 

Pgolden

Senior Member
Here is a story I heard from Wolfgang Herzfeld, who owned one of the fanciest men's shop in Manhattan. The store still exists and is worth a visit.


H. Herzfeld had a well-deserved reputation for selling some of the finest shirts in New York, so Wolfgang wasn’t surprised on that sunny November day when Senator John Cooper, a Republican from Kentucky, brought in a white shirt in a brown paper bag and asked Wolfgang if he could copy it.
The shirt, Wolfgang saw, had been made by Charvet, the venerable French shirtmaker. Wolfgang felt the material: it was voiles, a sheer, light-weight, plain-weave cotton. He looked at the collar and the seams and noticed a monogram above the belt line, the initials, JFK. Then Wolfgang remembered that President Kennedy had taken some criticism in the press for buying foreign clothes.
“How did you get this shirt?” Wolfgang asked the senator, and Cooper replied, “I play bridge at the White House.”
Wolfgang made a sample from the Charvet, shipped it to Washington and received a check from the White House, but he never had the chance to fill a shirt order for the president. Before the month was out, Kennedy was assassinated.
 

DukeGrad

Super Member
Sulka

Gentlemen,

He was a Brooks fan. But he got a lot of his shirts my friends, from Sulka!
I think that time frame, made by possibly Paris or Geneve. Or Charvet. I know, ties back then from Sulka were made in Paris, at Charvet. I have some of these.
Nice day my friends
 

JibranK

Super Member
ummmm yeah...alot of people change clothes frequently...I change at least twice a day...sometimes even more than that...nobody's writing a book about me...

Why are you annoyed at the OP? People mention meeting presidents as that's more memorable than meeting a random person and of interest to far more people.
 
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