Menswear icons are not made overnight. From Paul Newman and Steve McQueen to Pharrell and Kanye West, or more recent members of the canon like Jonah Hill and Shia LaBeouf: these are men who’ve had skin in the game for decades, who inscribe their place in the canon year by year, outfit by outfit.
But once in a while—because this is America, land of opportunity, after all!—comes a man who toils in the background, perhaps content with local celebrity status. And when, or if, history foists him into the spotlight, he ascends to icon status instantly.
Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, with his enormous collection of regionally-appropriate Carhartt gear, is just such a man.
Donald Trump’s falsified claims of election fraud have brought national attention to Fetterman, who has appeared on television countless times over the past 10 days to dispute the president’s claims and assert his own state’s efforts to ensure a fair and legal election. His carved-from-a-boulder face and 6’8’’ frame seem both too big and too good for the jaded lens of cable news. Like several of his fellow local elected officials also thrust into the cable-TV maw, Fetterman’s position as an honest, civic-minded politician clashes with the sputtering churn of Key Race Alerts and Breaking News: Tweets. His presence reminds us that American politics were built—and kept afloat, even during these past four years—by people who simply care about doing the right thing.
And wearing the right thing? Lt. Governor Fetterman’s got that covered, too, and in a deeply Pennsylvania way. He has appeared on TV in lime-green neck gators and enormous Dickies button-ups; his outerwear of choice includes a navy Carhartt fleece and a black channeled puffer. While Carhartt, like many other workwear brands, has made an effort to hipster-fy its offerings through marketing and diffusion lines, Lt. Governor Fetterman manages to wear the brand as both its populist creators intended and its newer aesthetic-minded customer base of art handlers and skateboarders interpret it. That’s thanks in part to another key wardrobe element: Fetterman also appears to own a bad-ass pair of Maison Margiela side-zip boots. Which don’t exactly scream local government, but, to mingle armchair political analysis and fashion criticism, suggest a willingness to question our preconceived notions—of footwear, and public affairs.
Shortly after grabbing attention on social media for saying that Trump “can sue a ham sandwich” and that he was “no different than any other random internet troll,” Fetterman changed his Twitter display name to “Jawn Fetterman”—“jawn” being a term which, before it referred to menswear, was one of Pennslyvania’s most important exports. It means, basically: anything.
Fetterman’s own biography reads like that of Davy Crockett or Johnny Appleseed, a Zelig of menswear and rust belt mythology. While serving 13 years as the mayor of Braddock, a town he said possessed a “malignant beauty,” he led community redevelopment projects to revive and modernize the town. He met his wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman, after she read an article about Braddock in a magazine and wrote him a letter about the steel industry. He refurbished a former Chevy car dealership into a lustrous loft home. On his left arm is a tattoo of Braddock’s zip code; on the right are the dates of the five murders committed in the town since his election as mayor. After running for Senate in 2016, winning comparisons to Vermont Senator (and fellow progressive) Bernie Sanders but losing the race, he became the Lt. Governor in 2019, beating incumbent Mike Stack. Now his honesty and passion has won him nationwide support. Could he run for Republican Senator Pat Toomey’s seat in 2022?
Wherever his ambitions take him, the world is waiting to welcome an official in Dickies shirts and Carhartt pants. Fetterman is that rare thing, a figure we have forgotten in this country, amid preppy aspirations and Trump’s empty-glass tower rhetoric. He is nothing less than an American taste god.
Originally Appeared on GQ