This complaint has undoubtedly been made already, but before we consign Ronald Reagan Week to history: Is it too much to ask that Americans try and look presentable when they show up for the President's funeral? Many times last week I heard the old chestnut about how Reagan insisted on wearing a suit whenever he entered the Oval Office. Didn't anybody notice how many of his apparent admirers seem to think Bermudas and a fanny pack are proper attire for a closed-casket viewing that's being televised around the world (even to extremists who believe our country is decadent)?
Here's a typical shot. (Of course, I'm not referring to the impeccably turned out George and Laura but to the herd of slobs behind them.) I've heard the excuse that these yahoos were just visiting D.C. in their Really Relaxed-Fit tourist gear, and ended up at the coffin before they had a chance to change. This sounds like the guy who wandered into a highway rest stop and ended up having gay sex before he realized what was going on. Isn't there a Marshalls in the nation's capital? A Ross Dress for Less? Is it really that much of a burden to pick up a coat and tie on your way to pay your last respects to a beloved president?
But then it's never that simple, is it? For while The Gipper's thoughts on proper attire were duly trotted out last week, his role in undoing dress codes went unremarked. In fact, Reagan was instrumental in getting Americans acclimated to the dressed-down presidential look. It's tempting to chalk up his rejection of the dark blue/black suit continuum to classic California casual style (dig this ecru ensemble at Arlington). But as we know from the infamous glen plaid suit he wore on his 1982 trip to Europe (no picture available, sadly), Reagan opposed central planning in fashion as well as economics. Casual Friday was not even a glimmer in those distant days, but between Dutch and Don Johnson (not to mention George H.W. Bush, who wore a Members Only jacket with the sleeves rolled up while debating Geraldine Ferraro in 1984), the tyranny of the IBM suit was broken by the end of the decade.
Like the Afghan mujahideen, however, Casual Wear was an anti-communist tool easier to build than to dismantle. And last week this one came back to us in a fashion catastrophe of stunning proportions.