Decadent Monacracy: White House Secret Service Uniforms During Nixon’s Administration
In 1970, President Richard Nixon changed the White House Secret Service’s uniforms most dramatically.
According to Richard Reeves’ President Nixon: Alone in the White House, Nixon felt that the present uniforms were “too slovenly.” An upcoming visit by Prime Minister Harold Wilson of Great Britain was a good excuse to upgrade the uniforms.
The uniforms, inspired by ones that Nixon had seen on honor guards in Europe, featured “double-breasted white tunics, starred epaulets, gold piping, draped braid, and high plastic hats decorated with a large White House crest.”
The uniforms were roundly criticized in the press. One columnist said that they looked like old-time movie ushers’ uniforms. Another noted that the uniforms borrowed their style from “decadent European monarchies.”
They lasted 2 weeks.
What I find most striking is that one of the Secret Service guards, the one closest to the camera, is a dead-ringer for Elvis Presley. After all, Elvis did make that infamous nearly-unannounced trip to visit Nixon.
But the two dates are far apart. Prime Minister Wilson visited on January 29, 1970. Elvis visited on December 21, 1970.