World

Farewell, Chuck Hagel, Fashion Icon

The Pentagon is going to be a little more drab without the departing Secretary of Defense. BuzzFeed News talks to the photographer who most captured Hagel's fashion-forward ways.

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Though you wouldn't guess it from this picture at the announcement of his resignation on Monday, outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel brought some much-needed pizzaz to the navy and taupe world of the Pentagon during his nearly two years in office.

Most Americans first became aware of Hagel's outside-the-box fashion sense when the White House released this picture of a meeting on Syria inside the Situation Room. It's impossible for the eye to not be drawn to the shirt Hagel is wearing.

Erin Kirk-Cuomo spent years as a Pentagon photographer, covering Leon Panetta and Hagel until this summer. "I think it was pretty apparent from the beginning that Hagel had his own sense of style," she told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview.

"His ties were always a little on the fashion-forward side," Kirk-Cuomo said. "He was never boring in his choices. I think he takes a lot of pride in making some fashion-forward decisions."

Kirk-Cuomo spotted early that even with his tamer suits, Hagel loved to throw a splash of color in via his socks. "I noticed underneath his desk, and it kind of became a joke in the press pool that Hagel was never afraid to wear some crazy socks."

"I can't remember what trip we were on, but I think they were green and had martini glasses on them, and I was like, That's it, we need to start a hashtag," she recalled. And thus #SecDefSocks was born.

The conceit took off with the Pentagon press corps, and Hagel was more than willing to show off his pride in the Navy — despite being an Army sergeant — via orthopedic couture.

The trend even caught on among the staffers who manned the Secretary's flgihts.

Looks like #SecDef's taste for colorful & stylish socks rubbed off on the crew #SECDEFsocks #flightattendantsockwars

U.S. Dept of Defense@DeptofDefenseFollow

Looks like #SecDef's taste for colorful & stylish socks rubbed off on the crew #SECDEFsocks #flightattendantsockwars

7:10 PM - 14 Aug 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Kirk-Cuomo's favorite outfit of his: "He had these green corduroy pants that he likes to wear on more casual trips and always pairs it with a bright yellow sweater. It always meant that he was going to have some kind of crazy socks on."

But if this Steve Jobs-esque outfit is any indication, Hagel will do just fine transitioning back into the private sector once his successor is confirmed in the Senate.

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Hayes Brown at hayes.brown@buzzfeed.com.

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