The Daily Demarche
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
The Foreign Service Fashion Deficit
There are a lot of misconceptions about the Foreign Service out there. One of the greatest and most common misconceptions, and the one which struck me immediately when I first entered the Service, was the idea that male Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) are a well-dressed group of cocktail drinking effeminates. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We are not well-dressed. At all.

There are two main problems with the dress tastes of male FSOs. First, many of them, while really nice people and competent at their jobs, simply lack dress sense. Even the Land’s End catalogue, a perennial foreign service favorite, cannot rescue them – simply because a shirt, tie, and coat appear in the same catalogue does not mean that they can be worn at the same time. I consider myself to fit in this category, at least as far as dress sense goes. Lucky for me, my wife is much smarter than I am when it comes to fashion, and everything else for that matter. She has straightened me out: classic, not trendy, is the way to go in the world of diplomacy.

Which leads me to the other problem confronting FSO fashion failures: the problem of being trendy. You see, there are some FSOs out there who are capable of being trendy. The problem, however, occurs when they leave for the Far Abroad. Even if they are au courant when they leave Washington DC, and they arrive at post at the leading edge of fashion, style will change, as it always does, and they will return to DC from some far away place some years later, failing to comprehend that the fashion scene in the US just may have moved on, while the scene in, say, Niamey (Niger) may not have quite kept the pace. This is true of diplomats who have been abroad for any number of years; when returning to the Department one begins to believe that some people must have been overseas since the mid-seventies – this is the only possible way to account for all the polyester grape smugglers and weird suits (plaid, linen, anyone?) one sees swishing through Foggy Bottom’s halls.

What to do then? What is the answer to the prayers of the poorly attired policy wonk? Is all lost for America’s fearless cocktail heroes? Is there a savior for our sartorially cursed consuls and second secretaries?

Yes. There is. Behold Manolo.

Manolo actually writes several blogs, all related to fashion. His motto is: classy, not trendy – he considers people who follow the fashion prescriptions of GQ to be “peacocky and flamboyant.”. And his advice isn’t complicated. Furthermore, it is funny. I have no doubt that following Manolo’s prescriptions will drastically improve the image of the Foreign Service. And that is good for all of us, although I wonder if I should be spreading the word. Judging by his prose, I wonder how long he’s been here, and what his immigration status is...

(Hat tip: Chicago Boyz)

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dé·marche 1) A course of action; a maneuver. 2) A diplomatic representation or protest 3) A statement or protest addressed by citizens to public authorities.

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