Obama wears beige – what is going on?

President Obama is a beige suit
President Obama gives a press conference on ISIS on 29 August 2014

Karine from France kindly brought this outfit to my attention – President Obama giving a press conference on the need for an aggressive response to ISIS. It has caused something of a stir in the States where Jared Keller refered to the outfit as “The Audacity of Taupe”.

First let’s look at the outfit itself. A nice summer suit to my mind, although I find the fit on the body a little loose for his tall, slim figure. It’s a beautiful colour – a neutral beige – that can be worn  by just about everyone. This sort of beige is an inoffensive colour that is neither warm nor cool; a middling colour that works well with just about every skin tone. Obama has deep cool colouring and looks great in black, deep blue and dark charcoal and certainly these are his best looks for suits.

But in warm weather many men like to wear a lighter suit – perhaps in lightweight wools, linen or silk and this one would be a fine choice for a summer wedding, for example. He has paired it with a icy white shirt and an attractive silk tie, with a bright grey and white stripe. This tones very well with the suit and with the deep cool greys in Obama’s hair.

While I do like the suit, and think Barak Obama looks nice in it, I don’t think it is appropriate bellicose presidential wear. You don’t declare war wearing beige, really. The topic and the seriousness of the issue require a much stronger “presidential” look – maximum authority required. So my choice would have been a dark navy suit and white shirt, and probably a more sober tie. Stripes can look jaunty and sporty, so probably a plain tie in that shade of grey, or a strong deep shade like purple or dark red would have hit the spot so much better.

In the end I find it an incongruous look. This is a man who is saying he would rather be somewhere else, doing something else. His own audacity and hope is ebbing fast. It’s rather sad but his outfit choice is the choice of someone who is a bit washed out and a bit washed up. It’s the sort of suit a retired president might wear.


5 Responses

  1. Karine

    Thank you for your post ! I agree with your conclusion. It is indeed a bit sad. And worrying.

    I wish we could know why he wore this. Was it his own decision ? He woke up with the urgent need to wear beige. Or was it suggested by people around him ? In that case, was it to distract our attention from the very serious topics of the press conference ?
    He said a couple of years ago that he couldn’t bother to make choice about clothes and food because he had already so many important decisions to take. It makes sense. But then, what happened yesterday ?

    As for “taupe”, this is a word that I do not understand. It seems that it comes from the French word meaning “mole”. I’m not an expert but moles are black, aren’t they ? Don’t we say “noir comme une taupe” which means pitch-black ? and also “myope comme une taupe”: blind as bats. “the audacity of taupe ” = the audacity of a mole = the audacity of a blind person”…

  2. Stephanie

    This is very interesting, as is Karine’s comment. It would make sense for him not to make decisions about his clothes. Have you heard about “decision fatigue”?: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 (It’s something I suffer from, well and truly.) An understanding of the principle can be applied very well to getting oneself to do things such as go to the gym.

    I agree that a dark navy suit would have been more suitable. I prefer light suits on blonde men, for the most part, and only at summer garden parties or weddings. I think Obama looks washed out and tired in this, which also suggests something interesting. PS The Italian the word for mouse is “topolino” and for rat “topo” I think. Nevertheless, a deeper shade of grey-brown is something I can wear very well. 🙂

    • Stephanie

      Oops..sorry topolino is of course “little mouse” (I think this was the nickname used for the Fiat 500 in the past because it was one of the smallest cars in the world when it was introduced) and topo is a mouse. Rat seems to be “ratto,” at least according to wordreference, but I’ve never heard the word used before.

  3. Cedi Frederick

    I’m guessing BO’s in final term ‘I don’t give a damn’ mode? Sorry, it didn’t work for me in the same way as his open collar look didn’t work. Whether we like it or not, our clothes and our choice of clothes make a statement about not just who we are, but what we’re thinking and feeling at the time. How often have we worn muted, sombre colours and conservative mixes when we’re not feeling at our best? Maybe FLOTUS or the girls encouraged him to wear it, but as the leader of the free world at a time of international turmoil it was wrong and took away from the important message he was giving at the time. It was a distraction that wasn’t needed!

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