The clothes may make the man, but they also make the news. Look no further than the recent buzz around the fact that President Barack Obama wore — gasp — a tan suit. Forget Ukraine. Forget Iraq. Things are getting real back home when the commander-in-chief dare stray from his traditional black and navy ensembles.
Today, this Tuesday after Labor Day, is a fitting time to talk about fashion. Etiquette for reasons that escape most dictates that we put away the white shoes until next Memorial Day and pity on the folks who don’t get that memo.
But Obama did not wear white shoes or even a bit of eyebrow-raising seersucker. Instead, during a very serious press briefing last week he lightened up his regular somber look with a more summery color. Nobody remembers what Obama talked about because all anybody else talked about was what he wore. Call the briefing a — insert snicker — presidential a-dress.
What shade was it really? Tan? Beige? Brown? Khaki? Dark sand or even clay? Many pundits are going with the oddly spelled and pronounced taupe in the myriad news stories calling into question why exactly Obama is shaking up his wardrobe and also analyzing the suit color choices of presidents past. Side note: I fear the day I’m assigned to parse out the fashion choices of Peninsula mayors present and past. Call the notion ridiculous but remember that very squarely here in reality educated people have given up understanding ISIS and ISIL so they can figure out the presidential color palette.
I’d nod in agreement if Obama opted for, say, a zoot suit. Or top hat and tails. Heck, the avalanche of commentary would make sense if he stole Mark Zuckerberg’s hoodie look or had gone off the deep end and opted for no pants at all. That in itself would be newsworthy. This just shows that to a grand majority, presidential fashion is more widely appealing than how the president fashions policy.
Unfortunately, head member of the fashion police Joan Rivers is currently out of commission so can’t chime in on the political and pop culture ramifications of Suit-gate. But everybody else is pretty chatty.
One social media analytic firm noted more than 13,800 tweets on that single subject in a 24-hour period following the Thursday appearance. Admittedly, some of the hashtags and comments are worth at least a smile, “The audacity of taupe” and “Yes we tan” among them. The suit even merited a few spoof Twitter accounts of its own.
Thanks to the public fascination and coverage of both the suit and the suit’s coverage, the public has also been privy to important information such as the fact that Obama also wore tan on Easter. Obama is in good company. Seems tan and brown fans include former presidents Bush One and Two, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower. FDR favored white. Who knew? Maybe now we can formulate a spreadsheet documenting pinstripes.
Dissection of political wardrobes isn’t particularly new but is usually reserved from the female contingent or first lady. Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hats. Barbara Bush’s ever-present string of pearls. Michelle Obama’s enviable guns in sleeveless shifts. Hillary Clinton’s headbands and later her power pantsuits.
The closest scrutiny most male politicians ever received was the grilling of Clinton over boxers or briefs. Guess Obama should count himself lucky nobody is inquiring what came between him and those now infamous tan slacks. Of course, don’t be surprised when that’s the next question being fashioned.
Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached at: email@example.com or (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. Follow Michelle on Twitter @michellemdurand What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor: firstname.lastname@example.org.