Will President-elect Donald Trump follow in the footsteps of JFK, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton? Or will he be more like Barack Obama, George W. Bush and FDR?
No, we’re not talking about politics. We’re talking coats.
From 1793 until 1933, the inauguration of the president of the United States took place on March 4 — the date on which the Constitution was signed in 1789 — when it was practically spring in Washington, D.C. But that changed in 1937, when the 20th Amendment shifted the ceremony to Jan. 20 to shorten the time between the election and the inauguration.
This move created a national spectacle that is held outside in the freezing cold: The average high temperature in Washington on Jan. 20 is 43 degrees Fahrenheit, and the average low is 28 degrees.
But frigid temps haven’t stopped some presidents from peeling off their layers.
For the past 20 presidents, there have been 36 inaugurations — 21 where the president wore a coat, and 15 where he did not. From 1893 to 1956, every president wore a coat to be sworn in, no matter what his party.
Then, Dwight D. Eisenhower started a new trend during his second inauguration, in 1957. He had his coat removed before giving his acceptance speech, perhaps to emphasize subtly the show of U.S. military strength put on for the occasion at the height of the Cold War.
John F. Kennedy followed in Ike’s footsteps in 1961, taking off his top hat and overcoat coat to address the nation in a morning coat — which was the conventional daytime formal wear for men at the time. After that, there were almost 50 years of coatless acceptance speeches.
Fun fact: Ronald Reagan braved the warmest and coldest inaugurations without a coat. His first ceremony in 1981 was a scorcher at 55 degrees compared to his second ceremony, in 1985, when the thermometer dropped to 7 degrees — and 10 to 20 degrees below zero with wind chill. And while he spoke sans jacket, his 1985 acceptance speech was moved inside due to inclement weather.
The last president to go coatless was Bill Clinton.
When George W. Bush took office in 2001, and again in 2005, he kept his outerwear on. And Barack Obama followed suit for both of his inaugurations, in 2009 and 2013.
So, will Donald Trump pull on the layers, or go coat-free? The weather forecast for Washington on Jan. 20 is for a high of 48 degrees — borderline balmy compared to Reagan’s second inauguration. But then again, we know Trump loves an overcoat. He wore one to cast his vote on Nov. 8, after all.