Seldom in history has a presidential candidate, while dropping out of the race, taken the time to give a shout-out to the Bemidji Woolen Mills.
But this is the Santorum campaign we’re talking about: a campaign synonymous with the sweater vest.
For that, we must thank him.
The Santorum campaign was Stonewall for sweater vests.
Once, they were oppressed and furtive. You hid them under layers of other, more conventional garments, revealing them only furtively, in the company of like-minded, generally bow-tie-wearing individuals. Your high school history teacher was obviously sporting one, but nobody talked about it.
For years, the sartorial Bible frowned upon their wearers. To sport one was a fashion sin of the worst degree. It was as bad as sweater vest-on-dog. And from them led a slippery slope — first sweater vests, then granny jeans, then who knew what? You might start wearing leggings as pants. Stylist Stacy London gave impassioned sermons against them. Anyone who chose the vested lifestyle would wind up uncomfortably hot, sooner or later.
Then Rick came along, and everything changed.
Suddenly, they were everywhere — out and proud and swathing Rick Santorum in their warm embrace. They were rioting in the streets. At any rate they were clashing in the streets, overwhelming entire ensembles and swallowing up Oxford shirts right and left. No more were they shoved aside in favor of suits (empty or otherwise), shirts (stuffed or otherwise) and bow ties.
Sweater vests were here, they were knitwear, and we had to get used to it. They rose up to claim their rightful place in America’s arms. (Well, under America’s arms, riding up occasionally to cause their wearers discomfort.) Santorum offered them hope and the promise of a better future, out of the closet where they had dwelt so long under piles of unflattering Christmas sweaters.
You could spot them being worn openly in bars by people of all political persuasions. They had a voice — a bland but friendly monotone decrying the decline of the American family.
It was a breakthrough.
No more were they consigned to American Appareled men in indie bands, aristocrats in golfing slacks, or people whose Han Solo costumes had gone disastrously awry.
No more were they a furtive mortification of the flesh, for people who wanted to wear something uniformly unflattering to every body type.
For the first time, people listened to their wearers.
They came in every color and size. They were Made in the USA. You could even get one emblazoned with the word Santorum, with the O formed of stars through which a tiny eagle soared. More than 3,000 of those were snatched up, suddenly, in transports of sartorial rapture. To gaze upon this garment was to see the face of God. Well, the sweater vest of God, at any rate.
Truly was it said: Sleeves just slow you down.
Thank heavens that Rick Santorum had the courage of his convictions. In the face of ridicule, he stood forth and proclaimed his right to comparatively bare arms.
He made sweater vests synonymous with effortless cool. Or synonymous with Santorum, a word that has been variously redefined to mean any number of things.
His speech in Gettysburg, Pa., withdrawing from the race, hit every high point. The coal-miner father! The Duggars! And most important of all, the sweater vest!
Thank you, Rick, for your beautiful legacy.