Wednesday, July 7, 2010

“Hicks in suits?” Blagojevich may be proof

I remember one of my former reporter-type counterparts who, when in one of his pissy, denigrative moods, decided to bad-mouth Chicago by saying the Second City was nothing more than a batch of “hicks in suits.”

“They dress a little nicer, but aren’t any different from the rest of the Midwest,” this person told me.

AT THE TIME, I wrote off his comment, based in part on the fact that he was a native of the St. Louis metropolitan area, which I figured put him too close to people of a Southern mentality to know any better.

But now, I hear all about now-impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s wardrobe and the money he spent on fine clothes for himself and for first lady Patti Blagojevich, and I can’t help but think if my “pal” (whom I haven’t seen in over a decade) may have been on to something.

Personally, I always took Blagojevich’s very vocal love of Elvis Presley as evidence that his tastes didn’t exactly make him the most sophisticated of people. I would have thought with that hair that he was a “Beatles person” at heart.

But it did come as a shock to me to learn that the Blagojevich wardrobe had so much thought put into it.

BECAUSE MY DEALINGS with Blagojevich never gave me the impression of someone who considered himself a “beau brummel.” If anything, his physical appearance made me think more of someone who had moved up from wanting to be clad in denim and sweatshirts all the time to someone who didn’t completely mind wearing a tie.

Not that the ties I remember seeing him in appeared to be all that special. I wouldn’t have figured them for something bought at a gas station. But I truly was shocked by recent news reports that told of just how much money had been spent on them.

If anything, the Blagojevich I remember had the same appearance as many other local politicos – trying to dress a part that their personalities never were truly cut out for.

I realize that part of the key to being truly fashionable is not to be gaudy – which is a mistake that many people working their way up the economic ladder make. Flash is not synonymous with good taste.

TRUE FASHION OUGHT to be more along the line of clean and presentable, rather than garish. Illinois’ former governor always looked more nondescript, other than his hair – which was garish.

Blagojevich, in appearance, always struck me as someone who had moved up one step from the type of person who looked like an unmade bed, no matter what he wore. I would think that for the kind of money he was spending on his wardrobe, he would have moved several notches above that level.

Then again, perhaps some people just have their innate sensibility come through regardless of what they wear.

What brought up all this wardrobe speculation was the fact that federal prosecutors looking to put Blagojevich away in prison managed to bring it out during testimony in his government corruption trial about the nearly $400,000 (about half of his take-home pay for the six-year period he was governor) that was spent on clothes for Illinois’ one-time first couple.

IT WAS MEANT to make Blagojevich appear to be out of control, and out of touch with people who have to work for a living for incomes that would never allow them to afford certain brands of clothing, particularly the Oxxford suits that appear to have been Milorod’s preference. (A personal disclosure: my suits and jackets came from either “The Mens Warehouse” or “Burlington Coat Factory”).

I agree with those who claim that it truly is irrelevant, and is little more than a cheap trick on the part of the prosecution. Make certain elements that already are petty enough to want to dump on Blagojevich for any reason possible get all envious of his clothes, and it makes them even more willing to suspect that he must have done something wrong.

It is not a crime to dress well, or spend excessive amounts of one’s on-hand cash on their wardrobe. I wish this were a fact that could be ignored, although some people are bound to be influenced by it.

What gets to me is the way Blagojevich is taking all this.

HE SEEMS TO be proud of the fact that the fancy status of his wardrobe is now public information. How else to explain his wisecracks to reporter-types covering his trial, asking them on Tuesday “how’s the suit?”

I guess he figures now we know he was a fashionable high-roller, even though many of us never would have guessed it merely by looking at him. The Blagojevich persona managed to overcome the appearance. We knew we weren’t in the presence of a true fashion palate.

If anything, we sensed that we were in the presence for a few years of the ultimate Elvis-loving “hick” in a suit.


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