Whitman sampler: How to dress like Walt Whitman

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so if you’re going to a marathon reading of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” you may as well look the part. The annual gathering, which takes place at Brooklyn Bridge Park on June 8, attracts a lot of so-called “Whitmaniacs” — some of whom dress up like the Bard of Brooklyn before incanting his epic poem. And The Brooklyn Paper is here to help you do just that. Examples abound for how to imitate the ink-slinger’s look — he is the most photographed early American poet, according to reading organizer Karen Kubiener — and we have combed through the beard and barley to bring you the definitive Walt Whitman mien from three eras of his life.

Walt the newspaperman

The early Whitman was a dapper young firebrand with a liberal bent and bylines in more than one metro-area newspaper. You’ll want a crop of medium-length hair combed over to one side and a beard cut close by the cheeks and left longer at the chin. Wear a dress shirt with a Milton collar and a cravat, as well as some slacks, polished black shoes, and a topcoat. Complete the look with a copy of The Brooklyn Paper (he never worked here, but we strongly believe he would have had we existed back then).

‘Leaves of Grass’-era Walt

This is Whitman at his most casual — when he spent much of his time leaning, lounging, loafing, and writing the definitive American poem. Keep your hair short with even shorter bangs, and aim for the “but I just shaved two weeks ago” look. At this stage the hat is optional but encouraged. Wear a puffy linen shirt with a big collar, but ignore the top couple buttons — you won’t need them where you’re going. Throw in a pair of roomy trousers and you’re done. Shoes are anathema.

Civil War and beyond

Not for the faint of heart, the elder Whitman is the most intense look to pull off. First-timers are recommended to start with an earlier Walt and ease their way into this sagely style. At this point, the hat and beard are indispensable, so just let your coif and whiskers grow until you achieve a level of shag that puts Santa Claus to shame — then top it off with a Stetson or similarly broad-brimmed hat. Revisit the “Leaves of Grass”-era shirt, but throw in a stately waistcoat, because now you’re an elder statesman of American verse. Then slip on some slacks and boots and finish with an overcoat. Bonus points for a cane or walking stick.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

Wilt Whatman says:
Thanks, I find this very useful. I've been looking for a site that would tell me how to dress like him. I best get to it!
March 26, 2015, 8:09 pm
Jerry Hermes says:
Interesting post to know about! Beards are the contemporary part of the history and deals with a great royalty. Its been said that having a beard or a moustache is a sign of a real men which rules the kingdom. Growing a beard has been a part when the Roman civilization was started to the depth which is being recognised till today. Though there had been a rise and fall amongst the people who grow facial hairs from the ancient time, but the syle, the gestures and the influences is still maintained to the great extent in today's lifestyle as well. Exceptionally in those periodic The dressing was formal, like the man in the pictures, but there were no products available to prevent and give the beards a specified strengths which was required to a facial hair growth. But the time has changes now, variety of products are available in the market as well as on online stores, like beard oils, creams, sprays.
Nov. 20, 2015, 6:01 am

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: