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Jim Harbaugh is not your average below-average dresser.

When it comes to having a sense of style, he is a pre-teenager. At public occasions when he is representing the 49ers, he often looks like he crawled out of the hamper.

But this is not a Harbaugh-bashing column. I myself am no Beau Brummell when it comes to dressing up. I believe Harbaugh has reasons for presenting himself the way he does. Before analyzing them, let's define the Jim Harbaugh Look.

His outfit of choice involves these garments: Sneakers. White ankle socks. Khakis. Black sweatshirt highly rumpled, pulled over T-shirt highly rumpled. Black 49ers cap pulled tight over head, partially obscuring eyes. He looks like a 13-year-old who played pickup hoops all day and didn't wash before dinner.

At the Super Bowl he and his brother John conducted a press conference for the national media. John, who always conveys savoir faire, wore a jacket and tie, and looked like a grownup representing a great football organization — the Ravens. Jim wore his usual getup but, because he was sitting down, his pants rose over his white ankle socks and you could see ankle skin. Jim also was representing a great football organization, although in his own way.

Some thought he might have dressed a little snappier. The 49ers are the organization made relevant by Bill Walsh, who had class and kept a hairbrush on his desk and combed those silver locks, making sure every follicle was in place before he went public.

Some thought Jim had let down the image of the Niners in that Super Bowl press conference, especially in light of his demeanor, stricken in the presence of the older sibling, maybe resentful at the way John reached out his left paw toward the Lombardi Trophy as if he owned it, while Jim, kid brother in baseball cap, stared at him.

And let's be clear. Jim Harbaugh is the biggest slob — in a clothes sense — of any 49ers head coach since the Walsh Era. It's not like Harbaugh doesn't know how to dress. I once participated in a group interview with him at Stanford, and he wore a tan sports jacket and a tie and he didn't wear his goofball cap and he combed his hair and he looked — well, gee — handsome, sophisticated, downright spiffy.

So we know Jim Harbaugh can deliver spiff when he wants to. Which leads to the big question: Why is he un-spiffy most of the time? The answer to that question delivers the key to Harbaugh the coach and Harbaugh the man.

Here's a bit of context. Mike Nolan, as you recall, got a dispensation from the NFL to wear a suit and tie on the sidelines during 49ers games. It was an homage to his father, Dick, also a former 49ers coach, who dressed fancy for games.

Mike Nolan didn't look like a football coach on game day. He looked like a lawyer or an accountant. Well, he looked like Don Draper. He also didn't coach very well. Harbaugh is rejecting the Mike Nolan look, although he may not have Nolan in mind when he puts on his clothes.

Harbaugh graduated from Palo Alto High School, right there on El Camino across the street from Stanford. But Harbaugh, as he likes to inform us, is not California. Harbaugh is Midwest — rock-hard, basic, no-frills Midwest. And he's proud of it.

Harbaugh did not attend Stanford. He attended Michigan. How Midwest can you get? And he played for legendary coach Bo Schembechler, whose mentor and archrival was Woody Hayes. Now, those were gritty football men. They did not run the fancy — some would say finesse — West Coast offense. They had tough, brutal teams that featured defense and stout offensive lines, and they would find your weakness and go at it again and again.

Neither Hayes nor Schembechler dressed like Walsh. They wore sweatshirts and pants so baggy you could hide a million essential items in the pockets — a 12-ounce pork chop, a handsaw, two dozen marbles, a football playbook, a copy of Sports Illustrated — and a wrench in case a water pipe needed fixing on the spot.

It's not that they didn't care about style. They did. They had a specific style. Everything about them growled, "This is how a real coach should look."

Harbaugh is in the "Midwest real coach" tradition and he chooses every item he wears carefully, deliberately, even lovingly. He brought a new winning culture to the Niners and part of that is looking the part and living the part of coach as laborer — he even has his players wear work shirts.

(Bill Belichick, with his hoodie, is another coach-as-slob for similar reasons.)

Harbaugh would not be caught dead wearing a jacket and tie at the end of Day 1, Day 2 or Day 3 of the draft, even though general manager Trent Baalke wore a tie and jacket. Nothing like that for Harbaugh. For him, a jacket and tie are irrelevant to the business of winning games.

And there's something else. Harbaugh's ultra-casual-bordering-on-grunge look tells us he's one of the guys. He's a player at heart — he's "of" the players. That's why you see him throwing passes with the quarterbacks in pregame warm-ups.

So Harbaugh's clothes make a statement about his coaching. His clothes are basic and functional, nothing more, and they represent his down-to-earth philosophy of coaching.

He is a slob, but he is a philosophical slob — the Aristotle of bad dressers.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.