Although he's a native New Yorker, InStyle Fashion Director Hal Rubenstein started wearing cowboy boots in college and has seldom been seen without them since. Here, Hal riffs about how his look came to be and why he thinks George W. Bush is actually pretty dapper.
ACM: When did you start wearing cowboy boots and why?
Hal: I went to the State University of New York at Stonybrook which was undergoing a huge expansion so basically the campus was a mud pit; and it was right around the time Frye Boots got to be popular. From the moment I put on the boots I loved the way it felt, I loved the way I walked, I loved what it had did to your posture. I find that when you wear cowboy boots, it does something to you; it's like a woman wearing high heels. I think it redistributes the weight of your body and in order to walk in them properly you really do have to stand tall. Bad posture ruins your presentation. I don't think there is any possible way you can have great personal style if you carry yourself poorly.
So I have worn cowboy boots ever since. I'll wear sandals at the beach, the only place you'll ever see me wearing a pair of sneakers is at the gym.
ACM: Who are your style icons?
Hal: If I had to pick one person: Gene Kelly. Kelly basically showed American men how to wear sports wear. The open neck shirt, the V neck sweater, the flat front Chino, the white shirt with the dark V neck sweater.
ACM: What do you think are the unique style challenges of running for president?
Hal: I think everyone who runs for election dresses horribly. It's not just Senator Clinton, it's Nancy Pelosi, it's mostly every woman in office, that generic outfit that they wear.
ACM: Do you think that the public assumes that if they're spending too much time on their clothes then they can't possibly be spending enough time on the issues?
Hal: What woman doesn't care about how they look? How many hairstyles did Hillary Clinton go through before she finally settled on her do? There are so many successful women in business, not in the fashion business, who dress beautifully. I don't think a Senator has to apologize for it. Now, if she doesn't care about clothes, that's another story, but the problem is that your public does. Your public's watching every one of those overly tailored, oddly colored suits, either that black or that turquoise suit that you're wearing with that big pink colored shirt that you're wearing. No, she makes too much money and is too successful to be doing that on a constant basis. To me, the only thing George W. Bush ever did right was that he wears a well-cut suit. And he actually has great cowboy boots. It burns me up that he really has a great collection of cowboy boots.
ACM: What advice do you have for people who are beginning to cultivate their own signature looks?
Hal: Don't ever take your clothes for granted because we're watching you. People gravitate to people who look good. You really do have a responsibility to present yourself seriously. If you want to be a good tennis player, you take lesson and if you want to speak Spanish, you get Rosetta Stone. If you want to make a good impression on people, take a good look in the mirror, figure out what works, what doesn't work, go out there, go shopping, go practice!
If you're not putting your best foot forward then why did you even walk?