Some things about being the President of the United States haven't changed at all since Washington's tenure. While it's no longer common for the POTUS to ride a horse to his inauguration or occasionally participate in duels (as Andrew Jackson did), the scrutiny that comes with the position has been the same since the beginning... and that includes his fashion. Although the Obamas have been noted for injecting some modern style in the White House, even some of Barack's selections have been mocked. He's far from the first to take a little ribbing for his clothing choices, though. Here are 10 presidents who have been questioned for their lack of taste.
1. George Washington
George Washington didn't want to be a king, but he did have the extravagant tastes of one: he liked to outfit his entire stable of horses in leopard-skin robes.
2. Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson sometimes greeted dignitaries while wearing his PJs. On one such occasion, British minister to the United States Andrew Merry was on the receiving end of Jefferson's casual attire. He was not happy about it, writing,
"I, in my official costume, found myself at the hour of reception he had himself appointed, introduced to a man as president of the United States, not merely in an undress, but ACTUALLY STANDING IN SLIPPERS DOWN TO THE HEELS, and both pantaloons, coat and under-clothes indicative of utter slovenliness and indifference to appearances, and in a state of negligence actually studied."
3. James Monroe
Although the Revolutionary War had long since been over by the time James Monroe took his appointed post, he insisted on dressing as if the war was still raging on outside of the White House. That means britches, a buffcoat, a powdered wig and a cocked hat. It was outdated and a little bit odd.
4. William Henry Harrison
Do you remember being a tween or teen and refusing to wear a coat even when it was bitterly cold out? Or is that just a battle that my parents had with me? Anyway, I guess that's one thing I have in common with ninth President William Henry Harrison. He delivered a nearly two-hour inauguration speech on a cold, rainy, blustery day, refusing to wear a coat, hat or gloves on the grounds that they would make him look weak. Uh, bad idea. He fell ill almost immediately and ended up dying shortly thereafter. To be fair, he probably died from round after round of horrific "treatments" he was subjected to, but still—dressing a bit warmer could have prevented his untimely death.
5. Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor was so unconcerned about his appearance that he wore clothes and hats that were battered beyond belief. They were so worn and abused that it wasn't uncommon for people to see him out and about and mistake him for a farmer.
6. Chester A. Arthur
Chester A. Arthur was the first president to hire someone for the position of full-time valet - the man was a clotheshorse! He was rumored to own more than 80 pairs of pants alone. This may seem normal for someone of his stature today, but it was quite extravagant for the 1880s.
7. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Technically, this incident happened before Eisenhower was President, but it seems so out of character for the persona Ike had in public that I had to share it. Our 34th POTUS had a wild sense of humor while he was attending West Point - once when his commanding officer requested that he appear in his dress coat, Eisenhower complied. He showed up to the meeting wearing his dress coat and not a stitch of any other clothing.
8. Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson used accessories to get him out of meetings. When he found himself listening to someone drone on and on, he would set off the alarm on his wristwatch to get them to shut up. Charming.
9. Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon's fashion faux pas wasn't because of something he wore himself - it was because of the "uniforms" he had made for the White House police force. They had all kinds of flair, from epaulets to embroidery to fashionable caps. After he was roundly ridiculed for the ensembles, which looked more like marching band uniforms than official police gear, he donated them to - what else - a marching band in Iowa. Supposedly. I couldn't find what specific school he donated them to. Anyone know?
10. Barack Obama
Last year, Obama was mocked when he wore a pair of "dad jeans" to throw out the first pitch at the MLB All-Star game. "I am a little frumpy," he said. "Those jeans are comfortable, and for those of you who want your president to look great in tight jeans, I'm sorry - I'm not the guy. It just doesn't fit me. I'm not 20."
Any other presidential fashion faux pas come to mind? I seem to recall that GWB owned a particularly loud pair of cowboy boots with his initials on them, but maybe that's not so odd for a Texan.