There have been very few sitcoms that get a character that prescribes to traditional American dress right. There have been even fewer sitcoms where one of the main characters dresses this way. If anything we usually get an over the top prep a la the Office’s Andy Bernard or taking a look back Carlton Banks from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. However, there is one character in my mind that flies under the radar which is one of the key elements of traditional American dress and that is George Costanza.
Okay, maybe all of the details aren’t there, but it is his understated approach to dress that I like. First, take into account the fact that almost all of his collars are button-down, there are the always-present chinos, and he tucks in his shirt. It is also worth noting that he is fond of the tweed jacket/paisley tie combo, has quite a few field jackets/parkas, and dons round wire frame glasses. Perhaps the most telling sign that he indulges in this subtle style and does it well is that Jerry tells him that he essentially wears the same thing everyday (Season 4, Epsiode 1: The Trip). This is a comment that I (and I would guess many of you) can very much relate. George replies to Jerry, “Seemingly. But, within that basic framework, there are a number of subtle variations, visible only to the trained observer, that reveal the many moods, the many shades, of George Costanza.” Although he is not a prep, many of his personality characteristics are in line with classic prep stereotypes. George tries his hardest to succeed while doing as little work as possible, almost marries into money (and would have had a Father in-law who had a love affair with John Cheever – Season 4, Episode 8: The Cheever Letters), and is notoriously frugal. All in all George may be sitcom TV’s most well-known trad.
There are a few other tradly elements to Seinfeld besides George. There is the appearance of the Ivy League style shrine that is the Andover Shop (Season 7, Episode 18: The Wig master). Here, Jerry purchases a crested Joseph Aboud blazer and the salesmen asks Elaine out on a date right in front of him (I have always wondered what the guys over at the Andover shop thought about this episode). Elaine has quite the trad pedigree herself; born and raised in Maryland, her father is a famous author (based on Richard Yates), and she was an in-house editor at Pendant Publishing and an editor at the J.Peterman catalog. I could go on and on providing examples of Seinfeld’s subtle nods to WASP culture, but I think it is fitting to simply state that this show illustrates that Mr. David and Mr. Seinfeld know a bit about life back east.