As noted, I began today by sitting outside Magers & Quinn with a posterboard sign and lapel full of buttons, waiting for the store to open at 10 a.m. so I could get my mitts on Robert Caro’s new volume of his five-part Lyndon Johnson biography as soon as it was available. In observance, here is one of my favorite excerpts from Caro’s previous volume, Master of the Senate. It’s a description of LBJ’s unrivaled fashion sense while in the Senate:
His clothes were dramatic, too. Although he owned blue suits, most of them didn’t look like those worn by other senators; so rich and shimmering was their fabric that friends joked about Lyndon’s “silver suits,” and even with his conservative blue suit, and even when he was wearing it with a starched white shirt, he often didn’t wear one of his many understated Countess Mara neckties but rather one of the style known in Texas as a “Fat Max” tie: short, very wide, and garishly hand-painted, some with placidly grazing horses, some with bucking broncos — one favorite had shapely cowgirls astride — some with oil field derricks. Gold glinted from his wrists — the cuffs of his shirts were fastened by notably large solid gold cuff links in the shape of Texas, with a diamond in the center to show Austin; his gold watch was so heavy that when he went to the doctor, he was careful to remove it before he stepped on the scale — and gold glinted from his waist, where his belt buckle was also large and solid gold. His initials seemed to be everywhere: his belt buckle was monogrammed, as were his shirts (not only on the breast pocket but at least one cuff) and his pocket handkerchief, and when he wasn’t wearing the Texas cuff links, he was wearing cuff links that proclaimed, in solid gold, “LBJ” from each wrist. And the shirts he preferred weren’t white — he often wore shirts and ties that were cut from the same bolt of checkered or polka-dotted cloth — and the suits he preferred weren’t blue. When he wore one of his favorite outfits, of which every element — trousers, vest, tie, jacket — was a monochromatic pale brown, Lyndon Johnson was, one journalist recalls, “a mountain of tan.” …When he wore a fedora or other conventional eastern hat, it was usually tilted all the way back on his head, in the casual manner of the Southwest, and he often wore a big, gray, broad-brimmed Texas Stetson instead. And while he might be wearing black shoes, at other times he wore cowboy boots, richly embroidered and polished to a high gloss. “You could see him bend down a dozen times a day to buff them up with a handkerchief,” a colleague recalls.