Knot Funny

French President Francois Hollande’s Inability to Tie a Necktie Earns France’s Scorn

No matter the occasion, the French leader’s cravat is bound to be askew, writes Tracy McNicoll.

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French President François Hollande has a sartorial bête noire—a nagging, serial wardrobe malfunction that is the source of much mirth and consternation for his famously modish compatriots: The man just can’t seem to tie a tie. Literally not for all the world. And there even are statistics to prove it.

France’s own GQ Magazine raised the alarm back in May. Then, at the G8 Summit, only days into his presidency, the French leader was caught wearing a navy blue silk tie to dinner at Camp David when his veteran counterparts were going sans-cravat commando. A faux pas. “François, we told you that you could take off the tie,” summit host Barack Obama teased the rookie statesman.

But the French men’s style guide took the opportunity, too, to admonish Hollande’s delinquent accessory with a stark red arrow across a head-to-toe portrait from the very day he took power. “You will take care to recenter you tie, which you wore inopportunely to the right. That won’t do for a leftist president,” the magazine tsked. And yet it was only the beginning. Women’s Wear Daily recounted in June that Hollande had been spied using “an old-fashioned tie-bar, visibly trying to get the obstinate cravat under control.” But to no avail.

One irreverent French website is keeping a tally of all the repeat offenses since. According to François Ta Cravate, or “François Your Tie,” President Hollande has worn his necktie askew, sometimes unfathomably so, more often than not. In 241 public appearances and counting, the site calculates the French leader’s tie has gone rogue no less than 140 times. Sometimes the accessory is nearly diagonal, burrowing demurely inside his jacket or angling to snatch a wallet from his breast pocket.

These aren’t paparazzi snaps in compromising poses. The site, run by a computer science student in Bordeaux, only uses official Elysée Palace photographs. They are the quirky official record of the official face of France.

For the unassuming Socialist leader, who used to ride around Paris on a scooter and ran for office curiously pledging to be “normal,” it seems no occasion is too fancy, no guest too grandiose to warrant taming his cravat. On the Elysée Palace’s red carpet on inauguration day, there it goes, tacking right. Rendezvous with a NATO chief? Crooked. A German Chancellor? Crooked. An Israeli? A Palestinian? Crooked, crooked. Bono and Bill Gates? Take a guess. From Hollande’s recent African tour, “François Your Tie” counts six botched attempts out of ten. There are even pie charts. And the site’s user-selected Top Ten is a marvel.

In fairness, Hollande cuts an elegant figure otherwise. (Well, except for his rebellious shirt cuffs. For those, see “François Your Sleeve”.) Long taunted for his embonpoint, polite French for tubbiness, the affable pol used to garner dessert-inspired nicknames. The double entendres turned on his physical doughiness as a metaphor for imputed political softness. He was called Flanby (after a jiggly commercial custard concoction) and Marshmallow the Conqueror (the French words for Marshmallow and William rhyme).

But Hollande’s successful bid for the presidency coincided with a chic makeover. As he revealed his inner commander-in-chief and mounted a confident run, Hollande was transformed. Before throwing his hat in the ring officially in 2011, he had reportedly lost more than 20 pounds, shed his nerdy technocrat specs for rimless eyewear, and converted to sharply tailored suits, often in a rich deep blue. (He swears by a Turkish tailor named Mustapha near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, his biographer has claimed.)

It bears noting that Nicolas Sarkozy, Hollande’s predecessor, was once woefully attired, too. That was before dressing for success helped the pugnacious conservative score the Elysée Palace in 2007, his former supermodel third wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, and Vanity Fair’s praise for being the best-dressed politician in the world.

But six months into Hollande’s presidential term, that unruly necktie remains. As if Cinderella showed up at the ball with a little pumpkin schmutz on her glass slipper to wreck the fantasy. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo.