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Time for Mitt Romney to Roll Up His Sleeves -- Wait, Not Like That!

01/05/2012 10:30 am ET | Updated Mar 06, 2012

It's the persistent mystery of the political season so far. What's been stopping steady-but-dull Mitt Romney from stepping up and sealing the deal? Some point to Romney's famous flip-flops. Some say he's just not enough of a "regular guy."

Critics, you can fold away those thoughts. Hang them up for good. It may seem odd for a guy who lived in Massachusetts and attended Stanford and Harvard, but here's Mitt Romney's problem in a nutshell: The man needs lessons in how to wear his wardrobe of fresh-pressed Oxford shirts. And he needs them now.

Though not a retailer or a tailor, I think I may be just the guy to help him. An Oxford-shirt nut even as a kid, I learned it from my Brooks Brothers-wearing grandfather and Harvard-grad, LIFE Magazine-editor dad.

Mr. Romney, here is my personal list of Oxford Shirt-Wearing Rules. Refer to them prior to dressing for a debate or stump speech:

  • Fabric. Is it possible that those board-flat, optic-white Oxfords you've been sporting are part-polyester? I certainly hope not. Check the labels. You want to be viewed as a natural man -- am I right? Then cotton and only cotton is the fiber for you.

  • Wrinkles. When it comes to Oxford shirts, wrinkles are a good thing. Some of yours look like they're permanent press. Have any been "Martinized"? A bit of creasing and rumpling can make it seem as if you're someone with character, with things on your mind that are more pressing than, well, pressing.

  • Collar. This is a very simple rule. Want to appear starched? Then keep wearing those stiff, wing-like flaps without even a hint of a roll.

  • Cuffs. I've noticed that, before pressing the flesh you like to roll those sleeves. That's fine. But then you compulsively square-off your Oxford cuffs. They look like masterworks of origami. If my dad taught me anything, it's this: An honest guy grabs his sleeve cuffs haphazardly and crumples them unthinkingly as he rolls. He's a man of action, and action men are not into Oxford Origami.

That's essentially it, Mr. Romney. Follow my Oxford Shirt Rules just as carefully as you used to iron, and good things will happen for you in New Hampshire, South Carolina and beyond.

(Actually, I'm not sure about Florida. Do they wear J. Press down there?)

Peter Mandel is an essayist and the author of 10 books for kids including his newest about a guy who runs a jackhammer and uses his belly on the job: Jackhammer Sam (Macmillan/Roaring Brook).