In just a few weeks, Rick Santorum’s sweater vest has achieved iconic status. According to Santorum himself, it started with a speech in Iowa at an event hosted by Mike Huckabee. In casual campaign mode, Santorum just happened to wear a sweater vest when all the other candidates present wore suits. His speech went well — in fact, he thinks his Iowa surge might have started with it — and the sweater vest stuck.
People commented on his vest after the event, he said, and “it sort of took [on] a life of its own … and the vest gave me this power.” The next day, he wore another one, he said. Though he had only brought two sweater vests to Iowa, his aides went out and bought some more. “When you’re sitting at 2% in the polls, any recognition is a good thing — and the vest started getting me some recognition.”
When he related the story of the first time he wore the vest to Laura Ingraham on her radio program, her response was a hint of what was to come.
“I take issue with you on the sweater vest,” Ingraham teased. “What is it, geek chic?”
Santorum said he thought it made him look a little older — and assured her he planned to stick with it. Not only did he continue to wear the vest, but his campaign was inspired by it. For a limited time only, his staff offered “an official Rick Santorum sweater vest” to any donor who contributed more than $100 to Santorum’s election effort. They marketed it as “perfect for showing solidarity with true conservatives” and “a great way to show your support for Rick.” The vest even acquired its own website and Twitter account.
That ploy became fodder for late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, who used it to make a pretty funny swipe at Ron Paul’s eyebrows:
Since then, a bevy of amused, interested and annoyed onlookers have made a point to weigh in on Santorum’s standard sartorial choice. My two cents? Don’t mess with the sweater vest! Sure it’s geeky, but it’s also classically casual or casually classic, whichever way you prefer to look at it. Plus, it’s a nice option when it’s too cool for just a dress shirt and too warm for a full sweater. If you’re a golfer, it leaves you with the requisite range of motion. Need I go on?
This is a fight I know I’ll never win with those, who, like Rick Perry, prefer a barn jacket to an overcoat and a long-sleeved T-shirt to a sportcoat with jeans — but I’m all for Rick Santorum bringing in the trend for anyone who’s open to it.