A scarf a day turns Dr. Birx into pop culture star at COVID-19 daily briefings

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump listens as White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx speaks during the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 21, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

(Reuters) - U.S. coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx is best-known for her calm, authoritative briefings at the daily White House press conferences. But she has also become a pop culture phenomenon for her scarves.

Knotted around her neck or wrapped around her shoulders, the brightly colored scarves seem to change almost daily.

Texas resident Victoria Strout was one of millions who noticed, and created the Instagram account @deborahbirxscarves a few weeks after the briefings began.

Strout, who works at a footage and music licensing company, said the account now has over 30,000 followers. She said she hopes it provides a "brain break" for people dealing with nonstop COVID-19 coverage, as well as a bipartisan celebration of Dr. Birx, who has had a distinguished three-decade-long career focused on HIV/AIDS, vaccine research, and global health.

"It's a combination of people that admire Dr. Birx and also like scarves," Strout said. "It's kind of created its own little community, which has been really fun and something I absolutely didn't expect."

Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan said anyone with such a collection of scarves had to be invested to some degree in their esthetics.

"Some of them exude a kind of patriotism, others I think are more playful... giving people a sense that there's a personality behind the resumé, behind the titles."

Givhan described Birx's style as 1950's contemporary classic, feminine and pulled-together. And she said that she stood out because she wasn't in the typical Washington/federal uniform of jewel tones or a suit.

"It's something that's lighthearted and can bring joy," said Strout. "Dr. Birx is this really accomplished woman who speaks so clearly and concisely, and so, it's really cool to see people kind of recognize both."

(Reporting by Alicia Powell; Writing by Diane Craft; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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