As the first black president officially exits the White House for Donald Trump, we look back on his biggest fashion hits and misses.
Inauguration top coat, 2009
When people talk about taking a risk with fashion, they’re not normally talking about using clothes to stop a bullet — but when Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States in January 2009, he was wearing a bullet-proof coat manufactured by Colombian designer Miguel Caballero, which offered ample ballistic protection but was seven times more flexible than the standard Kevlar material. From the bullet-strewn streets of Medellin to the halls of power in Washington DC, the coat proved safety doesn’t have to compromise style, accessorised with a sharp pair of leather gloves and a bold cranberry scarf.
Dad jeans, 2009
Obama’s opening pitch at the 2009 MLB All Star Game established one of his signature looks: dad jeans. The loose-fitting, high-waisted, stonewash jeans partnered with white socks and a nondescript pair of Asics trainers straight off the bottom shelf of your local sportswear store created that classic ‘sneans’ (sneakers and jeans) ensemble that the POTUS was so fond of during his time in office. Years later, Obama tried to defend the fashion faux pas in an interview: “The truth is, generally I look very sharp in jeans . . . I was out on the pitcher’s mound and I didn’t want to feel confined while I was pitching, and I think I’ve paid my penance for that. I got whacked pretty good. Since that time, my jeans fit very well.” Sure thing, Barry.
Bomber Jacket, 2011
A favourite of his predecessor George W Bush, the bomber jacket was donned far less often by Barack Obama — but one notable exception was the ‘Carrier Classic’ in 2011, an outdoor game of basketball to commemorate Veterans Day in the States. Obama rocked the government-issued A-2 flight jacket bearing the presidential seal, and although the combination with chinos and a business shirt was a bit iffy, there was something undeniably statesmanlike about this outfit.
Navy suit, 2012
The simply, stylish suit Obama wore in Chicago when he was re-elected in 2012 typifies his style over eight years in office — a two-buttoned, single-breasted, 97% wool navy jacket with a single-pleated pant, tailored by experienced local suit maker Hart Schaffner Marx. Whatever you think of his politics, Obama’s suit game has always been on point — he explained his philosophy to Vanity Fair in a 2012 interview. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits . . . I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing because I have too many other decisions to make.”
Tan suit, 2014
If that’s your rule, Barry, why mess with it? Obama sparked a serious scandal in 2014 when he addressed a press briefing about conflict in the Middle East wearing a tan/beige/cream/off-white/ivory/bone suit that could’ve come straight out of Richie Benaud’s wardrobe. The President was hammered by critics who felt the light summer suit didn’t reflect the seriousness of the matters he was discussing, looking more like an extra on Miami Vice rather than playing his role as Commander in Chief. Thankfully, Obama retreated to his old rule of darker hues for the remainder of his tenure.