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For Rehnquist, the Robe Has a Meaning, of Sorts

No one has ever accused Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist of being a stylish dresser.

In his early years on the court, the tall and gawky Rehnquist sported loud ties and mismatched suits. While the other justices walked the halls in gray suits and black leather shoes, he wore khakis and Hush Puppies.

Four years ago, he decided the plain black robe would not suffice. A fan of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, Rehnquist saw a local production of “Iolanthe,” in which the Lord Chancellor wore gold stripes on his sleeves. A few weeks later, he appeared in court with gold stripes stitched onto the sleeves of his robe.

What’s the meaning of the bright stripes, reporters asked of the court’s press officer. An inquiry was lodged with Rehnquist’s office. There is no meaning to it, came the reply. The chief justice just likes the look.

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Rehnquist wore the robe Thursday to preside over the swearing in of senators for the impeachment trial of President Clinton.


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