Mayor-President Kip Holden always seem to have the perfect outfit for whatever the occasion.
Mr. Universe sash? Check.
Bayou Country Superfest cowboy hat and boots? Check.
St. Nicholas suit? Check.
LSU baseball uniform? Check.
Uniform of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte? Of course.
Just how does the 61-year-old mayor pull it off?
“That’s the $64 million question,” says Holden, with his infectious laugh. “Someone sent me a soccer shirt to wear during the soccer tournament that’s following the Miss USA competition. I had ‘It’s not easy being me’ printed on the back. And, I must confess, I’m still holding onto the St. Nicholas ensemble.”
He also has a set of doctor’s scrubs, complete with surgeon’s hat, mask and stethoscope … “one for LSU and one for Southern.”
Before he ran for mayor, Holden was known as one of the most fashion-forward dressers in the state Legislature.
“Yeah, they called me snappy,” he says. “One of my favorites was when state Rep. Charles Riddle, of Marksville, asked to be recognized by the speaker because he wanted to ask me a question. He says, ‘Kip, I have Motel 6 on the line and they want to know when you’ll be returning their shower curtain?’ I was a little wild back then … preferring five- and six-button (suit coats). Now I’m a little more mainstream and back to the two- and three-button era.”
Holden has gotten a lot of mileage out of his custom-made Napoleon uniform.
For the 2003 Mystic Krewe of Louisianians Mardi Gras Ball in Washington, D.C., commemorating the anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase, krewe officials suggested the mayor come as Napoleon.
“Someone in the krewe knew this lady in Lafayette who could make the uniform,” says Holden. “She barely spoke English, just Cajun French, so they said to be sure and communicate through her daughter. She told me to send an exact photo of what the uniform needed to look like, get my head measured and go to a local tailor and have my waist and inseam measurements taken.”
He sent them to the seamstress and got back a perfectly fitted Napoleon ensemble that reappeared at the Foundation for Historical Louisiana’s 2009 Old Governor’s Mansion Gala.
One of the mayor’s more popular get-ups is the one he dons each year for Bayou Country Superfest.
“I can’t tell you how many people tell me, ‘I’m waiting to see what you’re going to wear before I decide what I’m wearing,’” says Holden. “It’s a lot of fun how people react … it’s a love fest. They take photos of themselves with me and send it to their friends all around the country.”