HE’S IN. NOW, WHAT WILL HE WEAR?

Who cares what he thinks about the law? When it comes to style, will Roberts make black robes the new black?

It’s well known that the late chief justice of the Supreme Court William H. Rehnquist was a conservative stalwart of the Nixonian mold and a fierce proponent of federalism. Less well known is the fact that when not ensuring that the laws of the land adhered to the intentions of its founders, he was also something of a fashionista. Undeterred by the solemn standards of his appointed office, in 1994 Rehnquist suddenly festooned the sleeves of his black robe with four shiny gold bars. The stripes served no official purpose. Nor did they connote anything substantive. Rather, much in the manner of a waiter at Applebee’s, Rehnquist added the flair himself, inspired by a character in the minor Gilbert and Sullivan operetta Iolanthe.

We feel that this bold First Amendment expression set a precedent for interpretive wardrobe enhancements by a chief justice—one that as a respecter of precedent, John Roberts will want to emulate. So how will the newly confirmed chief justice set himself apart stylistically? Will he seek to appeal to a younger generation of Supreme Court fans? And if so, which part of the demo? We’re sure that Roberts is still exhausted from the cumbersome confirmation process (not to mention trying to convert his learned judicial philosophies into bite-size tidbits that his appointer can understand). So we decided to offer the following menu of sartorial suggestions to coincide with his first week on the job.

Ashcan Chic
When the Olsen twins graduated from lovable child stars to big-girl college students/possibly anorexic fixtures on the New York club scene, they chose to go boho chic. Like Mary-Kate and Ashley, Roberts is moving on up and should consider adapting their style to suit his transition. With a touch of ingenuity and a sharp pair of scissors, that stodgy black robe could be converted into a gauzy, poet-sleeved peasant tunic, just like the shirts worn by the helpless Russian citizenry as they struggled under the weight of the czarist regime—perhaps with a mock-handkerchief hem. To enhance the look Roberts should accessorize with an oversize Balenciaga bag (big enough to hide the entire Bush-Rove agenda), alien bug-eye sunglasses (to protect his right to privacy), prayer beads (it’s not mandatory in schools. Not yet, anyway), and a knit Missoni head scarf (the Court gets chilly, what with all that marble). Such purposeful dressing down would have the additional benefit of helping Roberts distance himself from the “culture of corruption” that is currently crippling the more upscale proponents of the Republican Party.

The Wigger
If he’s going to be riding the bench, Roberts might as well look like a baller while doing so. And nothing says racial inclusiveness louder than a pasty middle-aged white man dressed like a cover boy from the Source. While Roberts clearly boasts substantial East Coast street cred (Harvard Law; the whiteshoe DC firm of Hogan & Hartson), his new role will require him to be big pimpin’ at a nationwide level. Ideally, therefore, his style should be an amalgam of flavas from hip-hop capitals as diverse as South Central L.A., Hotlanta, and the Big D (Dallas). But the simplest move would probably be to take a page from Kanye West’s playbook, wherein Roberts would, to steal a line from Dr. Dre, “rock his khakis with a cuff and crease.” However, the chief justice’s background in choir and theater suggests that he might be more inclined toward keeping it real with a little drama—perhaps bum-rushing the court in Timbas, a customized hoodie robe, and an oversize baseball cap (tilted the right, of course). To add some bling to his legal declarations, he might consider a diamond-encrusted medallion of the seal of the U.S. Supreme Court worn on a rope-length gold chain, which would be nicely offset by the “Appointed 4 Life” tattoo printed across his chest.

The Federline
Now that Britney’s former backup dancer is also her baby daddy, it’s time K-Fed was taken a bit more seriously by the Capitol Hill establishment—and his trashy trappings offer the perfect complement to Justice Roberts’s Dockers-inspired style. With his robe worn open in a careless, just-rolled-out-of-prison manner that leaves everything in plain view, the new chief justice would send a strong message to haters at the American Civil Liberties Union that he does so maintain a flexible view on the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable search and seizure. Rocawear track suit pants would allow him to be very judicially active. And the customary knockoff Burberry cap would appease the business lobbies, signaling that Roberts is a strong advocate of international trade. We recommend that he forgo the wifebeater, however, since he has already raised the ire of the National Organization of Women with his evasive views on gender discrimination and Roe v. Wade.

The Dandy
Like shabbily dressed movie stars who suddenly find their closets full of designer freebies following an award nomination, Roberts could consider going the straight haute couture route. For spring 2006 this might mean the decadent glamour of a gold sequined robe by Heidi Slimane for Dior Homme offset by a porkpie hat and low-rise drainpipe trousers (a nod to the mods on the court). Though black robes are the new black robes, a less somber ensemble might involve the elegant formality of Valentino’s bright but tastefully muted color palette, including a Basque-inspired pistachio capelet worn over a dove gray Shantung tuxedo shirt, finished with a pair of velvet slippers in a deep lilac. As a subtle nod to the current state of world affairs, Roberts might find a brother in arms in the crisply tailored yet martial mood of John Varvatos. A fitted linen trenchcoat with a subtle camouflage print would be paired with Vietnam-era field vest, giving the ensemble a sublime military sensibility, not to mention very modest silhouette.

The Sellout
Like race cars and golf shirts, the robes of the U.S. Supreme Court justices offer prime real estate to advertisers who wish to give their brands high visibility, especially among the richly coveted C-Span demographic (rumored to include almost 300 viewers). Roberts could auction off the space on his robe to the highest bidder, using the proceeds to start a legal defense fund for Republicans being investigated for criminal misconduct, such as Karl Rove, Bill Frist, Scooter Libby, and Tom DeLay. Eventually his robe would become a pastiche of logos, which would make the entire affair colorful as well as entertaining. In order to fairly broadcast each advertiser’s message, the chief justice could begin a habit of walking about and turning in complete circles while listening to cases, instead of the more traditional seated approach taken by other justices. Product placement opportunities would so inevitably follow that it is rumored that Coca-Cola is already lobbying to become the “official soft drink of the U.S. Constitution.”