If clothes make the man, let’s raise a cheer for young Master Jack Roberts, the small son of the new nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. He has joined the crusade to restore male sartorial splendor to summer.
Master Roberts appeared at the White House — with his dad, his mum and older sister — in a dashing seersucker suit and brown-and-white saddle shoes, the junior version of the two-tone spectators that were once the summer shoe of choice for the well-dressed Washington gentleman.
This offended the Value Village taste of one Robin Givhan, the “fashion” correspondent for The Washington Post. She saw it as an assault on the reigning slob look of the malodorous hip — ragged denims, dirty tennis shoes, sandals accentuating hairy male toes and sloppy flip-flops — that’s politically correct among the purveyors of bilge and bile.
Most of us thought the Roberts family looked nifty, something out of a bandbox, with Mrs. Roberts, who is clearly not intimidated by the gay blades of the fashion world who are forever trying to make silly and absurd the women they can never be, in pink and pearls. She looked as toothsome as a strawberry ice-cream cone, and she dressed her son and daughter with thoughtful concern for the once-in-a-lifetime occasion. The Post’s Miss Givhan, who might not know a writ from a tort or a tart from a torte, nevertheless knows what disqualifies a man for a seat on the Supreme Court. If a man can’t sire a family that won’t offend Style-section sensibilities, how could he interpret a constitution? The Robertses, man and boy, are so … 1950s:
“The nominee was in a sober suit with the expected white shirt and red tie. His wife and children stood before the cameras, groomed and glossy in pastel hues — like a trio of Easter eggs, a handful of Jelly Bellies, three little Necco wafers. There was tow-headed Jack — having freed himself from the controlling grip of his mother — enjoying a moment in the spotlight dressed in a seersucker suit with short pants and saddle shoes. His sister, Josie, was half-hidden behind her mother’s skirt. Her blond pageboy glistened. And she was wearing a yellow dress with a crisp white collar, lace-trimmed anklets and black patent-leather Mary Janes. … The children, of course, are innocents. They are dressed by their parents. And through their clothes choices, the parents have created the kind of honeyed faultlessness what jams mailboxes when personalized Christmas cards arrive. … Everyone looks freshly scrubbed and adorable, just like they have stepped from a Currier & Ives landscape.”
Fortunately, Miss Givhan belongs to a fading generation whose taste, if we may call it that, is swiftly going out of style. She has nothing to teach either young Master Roberts or the woman who chooses his summer suit(s). Seersucker is back, along with clean hair and fingernails. Miss Givhan should check out summer seersucker at Paul Stuart or Brooks Brothers, or if she is afraid of venturing that far uptown, Jos. A. Bank could show her racks of blue or gray seersucker at the mall. Secondhand seersucker will soon be showing up at Goodwill, if it has not already.
Not so long ago, seersucker was merely the retro look, harking back to summer straws, white shirts and happy days, when giants ran the town and most of them wore seersucker between Memorial Day and Labor Day and sometimes well into September. Not all were Southerners, but most were Democrats. Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin would have been their go-fers.
The man who wears seersucker in summer now is accustomed to strangers smiling at him on the street and saying things like: “Hey, man, I like that look.” There’s even more bad news for Miss Givhan and her cranky ilk. Now that the seersucker suit is well established among men of breeding and accomplishment, the sartorial revolution will be expanded to bring back summer whites. White cotton poplin is available even from Haband, which ought to be far enough down-market to suit any of the polyester democrats at The Post. The likes of the late Hale Boggs of Louisiana, Richard B. Russell of Georgia, John Stennis of Mississippi and John L. McClellan of Arkansas were the last of the white-suit men in Congress. Before them there were Huey Long, “the Kingfish,” and Harry Truman. They remembered what the Navy never forgot, that nothing is as buff as summer whites.
The grown-ups are gaining on the slobs. Master Roberts is just the new blood we’ve been waiting for.
Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.