Obama tan suit controversy

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Obama wearing his tan suit on the day of the press conference

The Barack Obama tan suit controversy occurred on August 28, 2014, when Barack Obama, then-President of the United States, wore a tan suit while he held a live press conference on increasing the U.S. military response against the Islamic State in Syria.[1] Obama's appearance on television in the tan suit sparked significant attention and led to media and social media criticism. The issue remained prominent in the media for several days with the issue being particularly widely discussed on talk shows.[2][3][4][5][6]

Background[edit]

On August 28, 2014, Barack Obama held a press conference about the situation regarding ISIS in Syria, and how the US military was planning to respond to it. At the conference, Obama said that the US had yet to develop a plan regarding the removal of ISIS, and talked extensively about his concerns in the region.[1][7] During the conference he wore a tan suit, which up until that point was uncommon for Obama to do.[8]

A light-colored suit is considered casual summer wear[2][9] that was seen by conservative media outlet Fox News[10] as being too casual for a press conference on such a serious matter. The controversy was seen in the context of the slow news season before the run-up to the 2014 election campaign.[11][12] The suit received mixed reviews from a fashion perspective.[13][14]

At the time, the unusual attention given to a male leader's fashion choices was contrasted with that of his 2008 Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's regular experience as a woman in politics.[15]

Immediate response[edit]

President Ronald Reagan, wearing a tan suit on the south lawn of the White House in 1988
Reagan wearing a tan suit while shaking hands with tennis player Arthur Ashe, 1982

Conservatives disapproved of Obama's decision to wear the tan suit. Conservative Republican Representative Peter King of New York called Obama's wearing of the suit unpresidential, and stated that "There's no way, I don't think, any of us can excuse what the president did yesterday. I mean, you have the world watching."[16][6] According to Conservative Justin Sink of The Hill, most people viewed Obama's fashion choice to be a mistake.[17]

Conservative critics of Obama joked about the tan suit, making a play on words of Obama's "yes we can" and "the audacity of hope" phrases into "yes we tan" and "the audacity of taupe."[1][18] The latter phrase, a take on the title of Obama's presidential campaign book, was recycled from media coverage of a 2010 Oval Office redecoration by Michael S. Smith which featured a prominent taupe rug and furnishings in similar muted colors, playfully criticized by Arianna Huffington among others.[19][20]

Others defended Obama's tan suit, and most people dismissed the controversy as being petty and trivial. The day after the press conference, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that Obama felt pretty good about his decision to wear the suit.[17] Fashion designer Joseph Abboud, who had made suits for the president before, praised Obama for the decision, saying that "You don't want to look the same every day of your life. It's boring as hell."[21] Multiple news outlets pointed out how presidents in the past had also worn tan suits, including Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.[1][22] Still others said that the tan suit controversy was overshadowing the greater implications of the conference, and of the US's strategy for ISIS.[4]

Legacy[edit]

For Obama, the tan suit controversy became a topic to joke about at future events.[1]

During the presidency of Donald Trump, the tan suit controversy was frequently referred to by Trump critics to draw a contrast between Obama and Trump. These critics contrasted the attention devoted to this trivial issue under the Obama administration with various examples of Trump's actions that broke more substantial political norms while generating less coverage, and argued that the episode illustrated how Obama's presidency was covered in comparison to Trump's.[23][24]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Farzan, Antonia Noori (August 28, 2019). "Obama was blasted for wearing a tan suit. Now, it's used to contrast him with Trump". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on October 11, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Murray, Rheana (August 28, 2014). "Social Media Explodes Over President Obama's Tan Suit". ABC News. Archived from the original on December 13, 2019.
  3. ^ Woolf, Jake (August 29, 2017). "Barack Obama's Tan Suit 'Controversy' Is Now Three Years Old". GQ. Archived from the original on October 12, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Bennett, Kate (August 28, 2019). "Lessons from Obama's tan suit 5th anniversary". CNN. Archived from the original on October 11, 2019.
  5. ^ Hilton, Elena (August 28, 2019). "Five Years Later, Obama's Tan Suit 'Controversy' Seems More Ridiculous Than Ever". Esquire. Archived from the original on September 4, 2019.
  6. ^ a b Brooks, F. Erik; Placide, MaCherie M. (2019). Barack Obama: A Life in American History. ABC-CLIO. p. 135. ISBN 978-1-4408-5914-4.
  7. ^ Kaplan, Rebecca (August 28, 2014). "Obama on ISIS: "We don't have a strategy yet"". CBS News. Archived from the original on January 4, 2020.
  8. ^ Dodds, Eric (August 29, 2014). "In Defense of President Obama's Tan Suit". Time. Archived from the original on August 19, 2019.
  9. ^ Lejeune, Tristan (August 29, 2014). "Fashion mavens weigh in on That Suit". TheHill. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020.
  10. ^ Leary, Chelsea (August 27, 2019). "15 ridiculous moments Fox News attacked Barack Obama". Showbiz CheatSheet. Archived from the original on November 9, 2020.
  11. ^ Rentoul, John (August 31, 2014). "Six of the silliest stories of the August silly season". Independent. Archived from the original on May 24, 2020.
  12. ^ "Trending: Sartorial". www.merriam-webster.com. Archived from the original on May 24, 2020.
  13. ^ Woolf, Jake (August 28, 2014). "4 Quick Fixes for President Obama's Sad Khaki Suit". GQ. Archived from the original on May 24, 2020.
  14. ^ Maynard, Micheline (August 29, 2014). "In Praise Of The President's Tan Suit". Forbes. Archived from the original on May 25, 2020.
  15. ^ Friedman, Vanessa (August 28, 2014). "Obama Wore a Tan Suit (and Spoke About World Crises)". On the Runway Blog. Archived from the original on May 24, 2020.
  16. ^ Coscarelli, Joe (August 29, 2014). "Eternally Outraged Conservative Congressman Not Trying to Be 'Trivial,' But Doesn't Think Obama's Tan Suit Was Appropriate". New York. Archived from the original on October 11, 2019.
  17. ^ a b Mali, Meghashyam (August 29, 2014). "WH: Obama stands by tan suit". The Hill. Archived from the original on January 4, 2020.
  18. ^ Colquhoun, Steve (August 29, 2014). "Yes you tan, Mr Obama: in defence of 'the audacity of taupe'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on May 25, 2020.
  19. ^ Green, Penelope (September 1, 2010). "The Audacity of Taupe". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on April 27, 2020.
  20. ^ Baker, Peter (October 12, 2010). "Education of a President". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on December 2, 2010.
  21. ^ Ledbetter, Carly (August 29, 2017). "Remember When All We Cared About Was President Obama's Tan Suit?". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on December 29, 2019.
  22. ^ Goldstein, Joelle (August 29, 2019). "Looking Back on Obama's Tan 'Suitgate' from 5 Years Ago & its Juxtaposition to Trump's Scandals Today". People. Archived from the original on December 3, 2019.
  23. ^ Farzan, Antonia (August 28, 2019). "Five years ago, Obama was blasted for wearing a tan suit. Now, it's used to contrast him with Trump". Washington Post. Archived from the original on April 22, 2020.
  24. ^ Ritschel, Chelsea (August 28, 2019). "Five years on, Obama tan suit scandal is being used to compare him with Trump". The Independent. Archived from the original on April 22, 2020.