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Farewell to arms: The sweater vest turns pop-culture punching bag

January 9, 2012 |  3:11 pm

Sweater Vest Collage
Though the humble sweater vest has never exactly been a go-to garment for the fashion-forward crowd, rarely has the sartorial staple of fifth-grade teachers, golf caddies and uncles been the focus of such open derision as it has in the early days of 2012.

First, on Jan. 4, the Times' Lakers Blog reported that new Los Angeles Lakers Coach Mike Brown (who, according to the official Lakers' blog, has quite a penchant for the armless sweater) made the fashion faux pas of showing up at the team's training facility wearing a green sweater vest (though, in all fairness, the misstep here was not the vest so much as the fact that it was green -- and therefore a reminder of arch-rival Boston Celtics). 

Then, on Jan. 5, the gloves (make that sleeves) really came off, when Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum's predilection for the sweater vest was mocked, not by the media or a rival on the campaign trail, but by one of his fellow candidate's children. Griffin Perry, son of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, took the following swipe at the sweater vest -- and Santorum -- via  his Twitter account: "Politics aside, can voters in SC really vote for a guy who's fashion sense comes from Tressel?" 

 The reference is to former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel, famed for wearing sweater vests, and who resigned in May 2011 amid a NCAA investigation over rules violations, and Perry the younger's comment was no doubt intended to tap into some long-standing college football rivalries.

In a perfect world (Santorum's perfect world, anyway), Old Sweater Vest's response would be that his last name translates from Latin to mean "Blessed Knitter of Armless Shrouds" or somesuch. (I checked. It doesn't.) But that would still just be treating the symptoms of anti-sweater-vest sentiment, not the cause itself.

What Santorum, Brown and 9 out of 10 golf caddies really need is a leader or an example to hold out as proof that the sweater vest -- or at least the man inside it -- can indeed be cool. It took us awhile to find, and we had to go all the way back to 1986, but we're glad we did, because there's no one that epitomizes the cool potential of the sweater vest like Ferris Bueller. Come to think of it, Santorum kind of looks like he could be a later-in-life version of the title character that Matthew Broderick played in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

We can only hope, if and when he leaves the field of Republican candidates, Santorum's swan song is a rousing rendition of "Danke Schoen."

RELATED:

Rick Santorum's new image worked in Iowa

Has hair care become the third rail of politics

Mike Brown accidentally wore green sweater vest

-- Adam Tschorn

Photos: From left, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum in Greenville, S.C. this past Sunday (credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images); a 2008 file photo of former Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images); and Matthew Broderick in the 1986 movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." (Credit: Paramount Pictures) 

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