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How to dress the Peter King way

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Hooded sweatshirts, writing shorts, and further fashion secrets of the NFL media's big dog and secret normcore icon.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

There's a chance that Peter King had a cold during the football game I spent sitting next to him. Or, more precisely, nearly sitting next to him; I was sitting next to my writing partner Jeff Johnson, who in turn was sitting next to Peter King; on my right was a reporter from People magazine. This was at Gillette Stadium, in the game that wound up as the high-water mark of our National Tim Tebow Moment. It was competitive for less than five minutes, which left me plenty of time to consider Peter King.

I can recall that King absolutely crushed a bag of Halls' Breezers during the game -- thus the question of whether he had a cold or a sore throat or just has an astonishingly high tolerance for mentho-lyptus. I cannot tell you whether these were Tropical Chill or Cool Creamy Strawberry or Cool Berry Breezers, although somehow Cool Creamy Strawberry seems the right flavor for Peter King.

But beyond that, and beyond the distinct rectangularity of King himself, and despite all the time I spent studying the most famous man in NFL Media so as to avoid watching Tebow throw the ball, I cannot really remember a thing about how Peter King was dressed. I believe there was some sort of fleece involved, but also that may just be the fact that Peter King's persona as a writer is basically to write thousands of words that somehow add up to a large fleece pullover with a NFL logo on it. After reading about Peter King's approach to clothes in the blog Jeans and Ties, I now understand that the vagueness of my memory means that King's outfit was in fact working perfectly, and exactly as he'd planned for it to work.

It is very hard to answer a question about clothing in a non-unbearable way. There is kidult-y, given-up abjectness -- "I just try to find the polo shirt that has the least-visible mustard stains on it, and then I tuck that baby right into my pants." There is its far more unbearable counterpoint -- "When I say that folding a pocket square is a lost art, I am not misspeaking. Although perhaps it is unfair in that art has, through human history, proven far less important than pocket squares."

And Peter King, who is a big shambling northeastern dad-type that loves sports and respects authority maybe a bit too much, talks about dressing like a big shambling northeastern etc. more or less exactly as he would. He has really nice suits, because NBC buys them for him to wear on television; at the end of the season, he says, he donates most of them to Goodwill.

But mostly he is about wearing shorts or the dadliest of denim with a polo shirt -- preferably bearing some sort of sports team's logo on the breast -- tucked into it. He dresses such that if he were suddenly scooped up from his home and whisked away to either a public golf course or an Olive Garden, he would arrive looking perfectly appropriate and contextual. "I usually wear the first shirt that's at the top of the pile," King says, "and the first pair of shorts. And that's the extent I think about clothing."

Except it's not quite that simple. King allows that he will dress up if he is going to the NFL offices -- or anywhere else "the dress code is going to be churchy" -- because one does not Disrespect The Shield by wearing a dri-fit t-shirt with a San Diego Padres logo on it into its church/offices. There is one other fashion rule that Peter King lives by, and it is the Peter King-iest caveat imaginable: no NFL-logo clothing. "If I'm out wearing a Packers or Rams shirt, it connotes that I'm a supporter of theirs or that I favor them. We just can't do that. We're impartial. Most people don't understand that about our job."

With the exception of his usual hilariously upright Peter King-iness with regard to team-logo polos, Peter King, Fashion Man is not at all unlike most other 56-year-old men, or other people working from home. He is not terribly unlike me, either. I take issue with adults wearing shorts out of the house in non-athletic, non-beach-adjacent contexts -- there are exceptions, but not many -- but my approach to the clothes I wear around my house is not terribly different from Peter King's.

For all the talk about "normcore" -- the alleged fashion movement in which ostensibly fashionable people dress, on purpose, like 1994 Jerry Seinfeld -- there is still something uncanny about it when glimpsed in the field. Fashion people cannot pull it off, not really -- the white Avia high-tops are too white, the acid-washed denim too fitted. For most of us, to look at Peter King's fashion is to look right through it, as I did in the Gillette press box. That is its intended purpose.

But for those fashion types aspiring to a more sublime fashion-victimhood and a purer strain of normcore, I can only recommend that they start with Peter King. Aspiring normcorers can look at the clothing he wears and learn a lot. Or they can read King's Monday Morning Quarterback column and try to dress like that column. Either one should work fine.