‘I be on my suit and tie’: Chancellor Wrighton’s style evolution

| Staff Writer

Chancellor Mark Wrighton: We all know him as the man behind Washington University’s enormous growth and progress from over the past two decades. He recently announced his retirement, and this year might well be the swan song of his commitment and dedication toward the University.

It is a well-known fact that he is one of the highest paid college presidents, and he will be leaving our community within the next couple years—but not without making a mark. His taste in fashion and style have remained rock-solid throughout all these years, as you will see from these carefully sourced pictures of Wrighton dug up out of the Student Life photo archives. And although his wardrobe staple is the classic suit and tie, Wrighton’s style seems to have taken on some subtle, unexpected additions, and he’s also gone for some great color choices.

This picture, probably one of the oldest of him in the Student Life archives, showcases Wrighton addressing the University after his appointment as chancellor in 1995. Slicked back hair paired with a classic black suit emblazoned with the University crest and a black University-logo-print tie on a white silk shirt—this look certainly exudes a sense of earnest excitement and dedication to the University.

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton—seen here speaking at the dedication of the Danforth University Center—was selected as the commencement speaker for Harris-Stowe State University. (Matt Mitgang | Student Life)Student Life Newspaper | Student Life

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton—seen here speaking at the dedication of the Danforth University Center—was selected as the commencement speaker for Harris-Stowe State University. (Matt Mitgang | Student Life)

And here’s the same suit-and-tie game going still strong 14 years later, in 2009, but with some interesting upgrades. In this picture, Wrighton addresses the Wash. U. community at the opening of the Danforth University Center. He has ditched slicked-back hair for a slightly wavier style, and also traded the Wash. U. crest for a boutonniere (the little white flower) on his pinstripe black suit jacket (also a slight upgrade from his classic plain black suit style). Also, his lavender shirt and matching lilac patterned tie perfectly reflect the spirit of the fresh April springtime. I must say, the seasonal color coordination is very well-done, for it is subtle yet elegant.

This picture was taken in December 2009 in a Q&A session on ethics, endowment, racial equality and sustainable energy sources. Clearly, Wrighton has a preference for patterned ties—here he is seen sporting a Wash. U. logo red silk tie as part of his pinstripe black suit ensemble. He doesn’t stray very far from whites and pastel shades for his shirt choices, which is a smart move because it brings out the contrast with the jacket. and The tie (red in this case for the December pre-holidays theme) really draws attention to his impeccable seasonal color coordination. His hair still retains the side part from all those years ago, but it’s less slicked back and more natural at this point.

In January 2014, we see the Chancellor with shorter hair, sporting the same outfit again with the classic black pinstripe suit with light blue-whitish shirt and the red Wash. U.-print tie. But here, the Chancellor is also seen wearing a red Wash. U.-logo pin his jacket, truly showing his commitment to the University in this picture, which was taken during an interview on increasing need-based aid funding.

This picture, also taken in January 2014, shows an excited Wrighton against the White House backdrop, featuring his classic plain black suit with a light blue-white shirt and a light green patterned tie, and what appears to be an ID pinned to his jacket. This was from his visit to the White House for the higher education summit hosted by Michelle and Barack Obama. Although the tie color seems to be off—going by his usually spot-on seasonal color coordination—this might just reflect the change in a new direction that he voiced at the higher education summit!

1.6.2015--Chancellor Mark Wrighton.Photo by Joe Angeles/WUSTL PhotosCourtesy of WUSTL Photo Services

Exactly one year later, in January 2015, Wrighton is pictured in almost the same outfit, but this time with slicked back hair and a crisp white shirt, paired with the green patterned tie to reflect his pledge for the Green Monday initiative. It definitely seems that he has thoughtfully chosen the off-season green ties pictured in the last January picture as well as this one to reflect his eco-friendly choices.

This picture, taken during an interview the chancellor did with a Student Life reporter at Steak and Shake in 2015, features yet another classic black suit look. However, this time, the chancellor decided to mix up the white- and pastel-colored shirts with a slightly brighter (but still light-colored) blue shirt with a stiff, white collar and white stripes. This, paired with a plain red tie, is definitely more formal than one would expect for a Steak and Shake lunch, but as the chancellor of Wash. U., his outfit choice (especially the rich, red color of the tie) definitely makes a statement.

It seems like Student Life hasn’t photographed Wrighton much in 2017, but here’s a picture from this year’s Libel issue, featuring rapper Chance the Wrighton.

What can I say? This alter ego is definitely the ultimate style icon! The frayed white denim jacket and the beige cap and cream-colored dungarees (overalls) really do mark a definitive, exponential transition in Wrighton’s fashion choices (albeit in an imaginary world).

But don’t worry, even in this world, Wrighton can be occasionally seen wearing baseball caps and Halloween witch hats (as seen on his Twitter page).

During his time at Wash. U., Wrighton has certainly proved that he is a master of the suit-and-tie look. It will be interesting to see how his style evolves after he retires. I feel he will stay true to his fashion staple, but you never know—he might just surprise us all and decide it’s time to ditch the suit for something more casual!