Cindy McCain goes crazy for patriotic lapel pins
CONFESSION: I can't stop staring at Cindy McCain's chest. It's like a Fourth of July fireworks finale with all those sparkly patriotic pins on her lapel. They seem to be breeding like wild hares in her closet too. Every time she appears at a luncheon or a rally, there's yet another crystal-encrusted brooch.
Someone must have told her about the importance of flair. Political flair.
In the cult-hit 1999 movie "Office Space," Jennifer Aniston plays an apathetic waitress at a TGI Friday's-like eatery. Her suspenders are festooned with 15 pieces of promotional "flair" -- with goofy lines like "Who wants more peanut butter cheesecake?" or "Ask me about our extra, extra cheese option."
Still, her manager wants her to up her flair ante . . . to 37 pieces. "We want you to express yourself," he says, exasperated. "Flair is about fun." (So much so that an Office Space Box of Flair -- with 15 buttons -- was released last October and sells on Amazon.com.)
Clearly, McCain lets her lapels do the talking. She gets her flair from Ann Hand, the go-to, Washington-based jeweler known for kitting out spouses of politicos (Karl Rove's wife Darby and Colin Powell's wife, Alma) and Capitol Hill players such as Madeleine Albright.
Her best seller is the "Liberty Eagle," which Hillary Rodham Clinton famously wore on her lapel in 1998, when she defended her husband's indiscretions on the "Today" show. The $150 gold-plated pin depicts an ornery-looking eagle perched protectively on a pearl. Betty Ford, Barbara Bush and Tipper Gore have all worn the bird, which has come to be known as the "Hillary pin."
In 2000, Cindy McCain sported the "Liberty Eagle" when her husband won the New Hampshire Republican primary and pundits wondered why she chose an accessory associated with a feisty female Democrat. The eagle pin hasn't been spotted since.
Nowadays, McCain smartly alternates between her crystal "USMC" and "NAVY" pins -- both pay tribute to her two sons' chosen military branches. There's also her "Blue Star" pin, which is traditionally worn by kin of soldiers in active duty. She sometimes sneaks this one onto the collar of a turtleneck. Then there's her blinged-out rhinestone "McCAIN 2008" flair.
"Most people wear just one," Hand says of the $45 brooches McCain favors. "But it's a very personal decision."
Apparently, it can be a difficult one too. In March, on a visit to the White House, McCain sported three pins at once. Was she excessive or indecisive? Either way, her lapel was blinding, more Lil' Kim than First Lady.
As the campaign heats up this summer, expect to see more flair. Even Barack Obama is wearing his flag pin after the McCarthy-like media melee that ensued when he decided to stop wearing one last October. (Well, in all fairness, not everyone can wear stripes.)
On Hand's website, you can see which rhinestone campaign flair is selling better. Tuesday's tally had John McCain ahead with 611 pins sold versus 162 for Obama. Will Michelle Obama break down and trade in her signature string of pearls for some "Obama 2008" flair?
In "Office Space," Aniston quits abruptly over her lack of flair and says: "I do want to express myself and I don't need 37 pieces of flair to do it." She gives her manager the bird. Um, not the eagle.
photos: Getty Images; Twentieth Century Fox; Ann Hand collection.