How do a Harvard-schooled private-equity titan, a Mandarin-speaking former ambassador, a libertarian physician-congressman and the nation's longest-serving governor convince Americans that they are men of the people?
Fashion observers say the men in the Republican presidential primary race are setting a new standard for studied sartorial ease. Working the campaign trail in shirt-sleeves and jeans, they're tossing off their neckties—and with them, a century of tradition.
"Good lord, what have we come to?" says Daniel James Cole, professor of fashion history at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. "I read that Mitt Romney's wife bought him Gap skinny jeans…We don't think of jeans as being presidential." The Romney campaign didn't respond to requests for comment.
A Republican former White House aide suggests the 2012 candidates have gone far beyond what he calls the "three F's" rule: A president looks better without a tie only when appearing at a fair, on a factory floor or at the scene of a flood.
Indeed, Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, went tieless when kicking off his candidacy.
Giving an informal air to the formal announcement, he wore a roomy shirt in a tattersall pattern—a plaid first used in 18th-century British horse blankets—with sleeves "rolled as if he [had] entered an impromptu hot-dog-eating contest," wrote Kurt Soller, Esquire's style editor. The magazine's Web story was titled, "Mitt Romney's New Strategy: Stop Dressing Well."