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The Compleat Hero

April 2018

This image of John F. Kennedy in 1962 connects and combines many themes. First is the American individual personality, dressed to suit its inmost self, but here flavored with suggestions of traditional oceangoing strength of will. Along with this go a lack of self-consciousness or need for display and an easy familiarity with simple materials that everyone knows and uses—plain wool and cotton, like sea and sand. The huge commercial empire of Ralph Lauren is essentially based on this sartorial distillation of high American class. It embodies an ideal devoid of rigid British hierarchies or restraints. Instead, it promotes the sense of a self-made aristocracy free to rise and succeed, to attain through desire—to fashion itself.