For many Californians, 72-year-old
's return to
for another go at being governor brings with it more than a little dab of déjà vu. Consider: He is inheriting the job from a Republican actor/politician, American soldiers are fighting in foreign lands, director
has recently been in the headlines, the McRib is back on the menu and '70s and '80s influences are back on the fashion runway.
But that sense of déjà vu doesn't extend to the man himself — Jerry 1.0 and Jerry 2.0 are very different animals.
The sideburns that you remember — not to mention the whole head of hair — are gone. Lapels have thinned, necktie knots — once bordering on baseball size — have shrunken closer to golf-ball size. The color palette is a more subdued range of grays and blues.
There are many reasons for this evolution — not the least of which is all that sand through the hourglass. (Brown's first term as governor, when he succeeded
, started in 1975.) Then there's the fact that his long-serving wardrobe wing man (not to mention confidante, advisor and flat mate) Jacques Barzaghi — noted in the occasional press report as the man who for years helped Brown pick out his trademark double-breasted suits from the Bay Area men's clothing store Spaccio — has long since been replaced.
In his stead is Brown's wife (and confidante and adviser) Anne Gust Brown, a former lawyer for
, whose recent clothing counsel included urging her husband to buy new suits for the gubernatorial campaign.
Maurice Himy, co-owner of the now-defunct Spaccio, recalls selling Brown "fine Italian goods." But these days, "I think he and his wife shop at Saks Fifth Avenue." (Brown's campaign declined to make the governor-elect or his wife available, citing their busy schedule.)
"I would expect that Anne certainly keeps an eye out for [his style]," says Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, senior fellow at
's School of Policy, Planning and Development and a political analyst who has followed
politics for decades."She's been a very important part of every other aspect of Jerry's life — and that's a big difference."
Bebitch Jeffe says that then — as now — Brown dressed in the styles of the time. "It wasn't like I ever saw him in a Nehru jacket. I mean he was a young '70s guy, he wore his sideburns in the style of the time and he kind of dated a rock star — but as I recall, Jerry wasn't alone in the way he dressed.
"He was definitely much more out of place in the way he approached governing and the mattress on the floor and that sort of thing, but there wasn't much in the way of a criticism of his style of dress — and my guess is that he will not have the same kind of flamboyant image now as he had then," Bebitch Jeffe says. "For a lot of reasons."
But four decades in the public eye — including two terms as governor, three runs for the
, one bid for
, a stint as mayor of Oakland and his current job as state attorney general — mean that even the occasional lapse in sartorial sensibility has duly been noted.
"Jerry Brown needn't fear scaring away voters by dressing too high fashion," noted an Oct. 19, 1979, column in the
fashion pages. Halfway through his first time as governor, Brown apparently turned up at an art gallery "attired in a navy, double-breasted blazer with peak lapels so wide they nearly touched his shoulders and wide-bottomed tan slacks" – both looks that got fashion votes during the Johnson administration."
And who could forget the 1992 presidential primaries? The last time Jerry Brown's style enjoyed a national profile happened to coincide with a white turtleneck and blue blazer phase. One newspaper at the time described him as "look[ing] like a priest and Carl Sagan at the same time: academic, ascetic, futuristic."
The Jerry Brown of 2010 is different. He seems to have mellowed (though
may differ on that count). He seems comfortable in his own
. And, at an age that finds some politicians relying on Rogaine, hair plugs and bad toupees, Jerry Brown is an unabashed member of the clean pate club — and what Mother Nature hasn't harvested herself he keeps closely cropped.
Perhaps that's why Brown was included in Esquire's recent list of best dressed of the 2010 campaign trail. The magazine noted his suits, ties and his close-cropped hair, although it made no mention of a significant change in the governor elect's style.
When Jerry Brown first became governor, he had youthful swagger. This time around, it's confidence.
And confidence never goes out of style.