Look-alikes: the attractive Kennedys and all America
Look-alikes: the attractive Kennedys and all America
President John F. Kennedy may not be exercising as much influence on a recalcitrant Congress as he and his advisers might wish—indeed, his legislative program is badly bogged down — but there is no doubt about the influence John and Jacqueline Kennedy, and to a lesser extent young Caroline, are exerting on the American public.
You can't go anywhere these days without encountering a girl with a Jackie Kennedy hair-do, or what she fondly hopes is a Jackie Kennedy hairdo. Fven the professional models who pose for the illustrations in. the highfashion magazines are beginning to look suspiciously like the chatelaine of the White House. Let Jackie appear in a striking new dress or suit or coat and bingo. New York's garment factories are mass-producing copies.
John Kennedy, no less than his wife, is a style-setter. Barbers the length and breadth of the United States are offering their customers John Kennedy haircuts. Because the president wears twobutton suits, two-button suits are now featured in men’s shops and the threebutton jacket is reportedly on the way out. When Kennedy was photographed in Florida in a short-sleeved pullover, there was a run on short-sleeved pullovers. And the hat manufacturers of the U. S. are wringing their hands in anguish over the fact that Kennedy seldom puts on a hat. Perhaps not since the aging Duke of Windsor was the dashing Prince of Wales has the male fashion world reacted to one individual as it has to Kennedy.
While Caroline, as a rule, is kept out of the limelight, on the occasions w'hen her picture is taken the companies that make dresses for small girls note her clothes' as carefully as the companies that make dresstef-íor big girls note her mother’s, and for the same reason.
But the national desire to resemble the Kennedys isn't confined to hair-dos, haircuts and wearing apparel. John Kennedy’s rocking chair, as everybody knows, created a new demand for rocking chairs. Jackie Kennedy’s search for early American antiques for the White House, dealers say, has contributed to a boom in the antique market. Her fox hunting has brought U. S. riding schools a new crop of pupils, mostly teenagers with Jackie Kennedy hair-dos, who have dreams of fox hunting like the first lady. There are no statistics about the numbers of children pestering their parents for a pony like Caroline’s or white ducks like Caroline’s but 1 suspect that the pony market and the white duck market are. like the antique market, doing a brisk business.
Meanwhile newspaper accounts of a modified version of the Twist, danced at White House parties, have inspired a vast army of Americans, who would normally be beyond the age-and-weight limit for that sort of thing, to learn the modified version of the Twist.
The Kennedys have even made their mark on the nation’s eating habits. The recipe for John Kennedy’s own brand of New England fish chowder has been widely publicized by the newspapers and widely sampled by the citizenry. (Good, too.) Some of the choice recipes of René Verdón, the French chef Mrs.
Kennedy added to the White House staff, have been similarly publicized and sampled and there is now, at least in Washington, a fad for French food. And while milk with French food seems
incongruous, the President’s announcement that milk would be served with all White House meals sounded wonderful to the U. S. dairy industry.
Football manufacturers are among
those who have felt the Kennedy magic. John Kennedy, his relatives and the new frontiersmen around him have made touch football an all-year sport. And in Florida hotelkeepers explain why they’re having the best season in years by pointing out that the Kennedys often visit Florida in the winter, so other Americans are following their example.
What it boils down to is this — that the active and attractive Kennedys have, since they moved into the White House, become America's favorite family, America’s favorite television performers, the glamorous characters in America’s favorite true-life story. Because this is so. political observers tire wondering whether Kennedy is the prototype for future presidential candidates and whether, to get elected henceforth, it will be necessary to be handsome and articulate, to have a background of great wealth and an Ivy League education, and to have a pretty wife and appealing children.
These observers recall that radio changed politicians. The old-time orator who could sw'ay the audience in a hall sounded pompous and ridiculous when radio brought his voice into the living room. He was replaced by the sort of man who seemed to be talking to you alone and taking you into his confidence and asking you to help him run the country. With television, of course, you not only hear but see the candidate, and, campaigning techniques being what they are. you inevitably hear and see his family. There’s not much doubt that you expect them to look nice.
So, from now on, it may be that a presidential candidate and the candidate’s w'ife and their offspring w'ill have to have attributes that used to be associated not with politicians but with the beautiful people of Hollywood.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.