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Obama: ‘I Look Very Sharp in Jeans’

The president went there.

POLITICO (“Obama: ‘My jeans fit very well’“):

President Barack Obama on Friday said critics of his “mom jeans” should zip it.

“I’ve been unfairly maligned about my jeans,” Obama told radio host Ryan Seacrest in an interview. “The truth is, generally I look very sharp in jeans. There was one episode like four years ago in which I was wearing some loose jeans, mainly because 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.”

Though the joke stems from 2009, when Obama threw out the first pitch at the Major League Baseball All Star Game, the ding resurfaced earlier this month, when Sarah Palin slammed the president as being known for wearing “mom jeans.” Her barb came shortly after Obama was photographed in the White House in jeans while talking on the phone to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the Ukraine crisis.

“People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil,” Palin said to Fox News’s Sean Hannity. “They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates.”

Obama was on the subject of fashion while talking about his recent shopping trip to the Gap in New York City, where he bought his daughters some clothes.

“They thought for a dad, I displayed reasonably good taste,” Obama said. “The bar is fairly low.”

 

I honestly can’t believe we’re talking about the commander-in-chief’s dungarees. Then again, I suppose it beats what we were talking about when Bill Clinton was in office.

For the record, POTUS is mostly right. The “mom jeans” reputation came about from that opening pitch; it’s the predominant picture that comes up in a Google Image search for “Obama jeans.”  Otherwise, he’s mostly wearing jeans that were in style in the 1990s, when “loose fitting” was considered a good thing. I suppose he should update his wardrobe—or kick some old school Levi’s 501s—but not too many 52-year-old men are wearing the latest style. And Obama does have more pressing matters on his plate.

Frankly, if I were going to give him fashion advice vis-a-vis his casual attire, it would be to abandon the jeans and running shoe look. Get some bucks or topsiders, Mr. President.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Neil Hudelson says:

    If you think this is ridiculous, wait until we have the first woman president. It won’t matter how well she handles crises, partners with the other branches and other parties, or confront enemies abroad, assh0les will still ask her about whom she will be wearing at the next state dinner.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The president went there.

    It’s not his fault. Tweeking the right is just so easy and fun to do! Fat free too!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  3. beth says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I can’t tell you how much I want to see him grow out the Afro he had in his younger days. Heads will explode!

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  4. Rafer Janders says:

    @beth:

    One word: dashiki.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Rafer Janders: I gotta get me one of those.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  6. Rafer Janders says:

    Frankly, if I were going to give him fashion advice vis-a-vis his casual attire, it would be to abandon the jeans and running shoe look. Get some bucks or topsiders, Mr. President.

    Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. wr says:

    “Frankly, if I were going to give him fashion advice vis-a-vis his casual attire, it would be to abandon the jeans and running shoe look. Get some bucks or topsiders, Mr. President.”

    Wow, lots of unexamined cultural signifiers here. Dress like a country club WASP Republican if you want to be part of the power structure…

    Not that it’s important, just interesting…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  8. James Joyner says:

    @wr: Well, he’s part of the power structure—at its very apex, in fact. If anything, African American professional culture tends to be more upscale than its WASP counterpart. He could rock some suede loafers, for example.

    Running shoes in jeans is not only dated it’s pretty lowbrow. I’m wearing jeans and topsiders myself at the moment but tend towards bucks, loafers, or boots with jeans–usually reserving topsiders for shorts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. Rafer Janders says:

    @wr:

    Wow, lots of unexamined cultural signifiers here.

    Actually, I’d say it’s extremely examined cultural signifiers.

    Dress like a country club WASP Republican if you want to be part of the power structure…

    Well, yes. Dress for success. Signal you’re part of the in-group.

    Of course, that too depends on what kind of success you want. If it’s in DC politics, you dress like a country club WASP. If in Silicon Valley, jeans, a t-shirt, a hoody and a Patagonia fleece. If in Hollywood, a suit and tie if you’re part of the agency/studio world or the homeless bum look if you’re an actor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  10. Dave D says:

    This was all I could think about when I read the headline: LBJ ordering pants.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3GT9UN7nDo

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. Sejanus says:

    If you wanna talk about some ridiculous Obama hate than check this website:

    http://www.tomatobubble.com/putin_obama.html

    Some loon from Conservapedia (who spends too much time on that website to be a parodist) posted a link to this on their main page.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. wr says:

    @Rafer Janders: “Signal you’re part of the in-group.”

    Sure. Except he’s the president of the United States. But that doesn’t really count for anything, because he’s not a country club Republican WASP. He’ll never be part of the club, but we’re willing to pretend as long as he apes the club’s style.

    It’s like Sally Quinn saying of the Clintons that “they wrecked this town, and it’s not even their town.”

    It’s essentially saying that no matter what happens politically, we are the ones who actually rule the world, and you can either submit or fail.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  13. Rafer Janders says:

    @wr:

    But that doesn’t really count for anything, because he’s not a country club Republican WASP. He’ll never be part of the club, but we’re willing to pretend as long as he apes the club’s style.

    Eh, Barack Obama is a graduate of Columbia and of Harvard Law School, the former editor-in-chief of the Harvard Law Review, a former University of Chicago Law School lecturer, a former United States Senator and the President of the United States. He’s been part of this country’s elite, part of the club, for the last 30 years. He’s not aping anyone’s style — that is his style. He’s an Oxford cloth shirt with a windbreaker / grey suit and tie / blue blazer and khakis kind of guy, just like most of my middle-aged male friends who went to Ivy League schools are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  14. Rafer Janders says:

    @wr:

    But that doesn’t really count for anything, because he’s not a country club Republican WASP.

    He’s a country club Democrat. There are plenty of those.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. Rafer Janders says:

    @wr:

    But that doesn’t really count for anything, because he’s not a country club Republican WASP.

    Plus, he’s 100% WASP on his mother’s side. He’s way more of a WASP than I am, since I’m neither Anglo-Saxon nor Protestant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders: @wr:

    Yeah, I’m just not buying the criticism. While we can argue about who had the more humble beginnings, Barack Obama has been part of the elite going back to at least his undergraduate days. Whether I’m part of the elite at all really depends on one’s definition. But I’m not looking down on him for not following the sartorial culture in which I grew up—I didn’t grow up in it—but for not following the one of which he’s long been part.

    What’s especially odd here is that he’s generally a reasonably stylish guy. He’s not a clothes horse in the way Joe Biden or John Kerry are, dressing much more blandly, but he wears good suits and they’re tailored just so. Even his regular casual clothes have your basic Brooks Brothers vibe.

    But he looks a little like a schlub in jeans. That’s not who he is nor is it how most black men of his peer group dress. Nor is he wearing some hip urban kicks inspired by the rap or NBA culture as well-off younger black men dress. I don’t always like those styles—then again, I hate about a third of the stuff that appears in GQ or Esquire—but they’re at least trying. Hell, a nice set of Puma sneaks with jeans are fine. But running shoes with jeans are what old men who’ve given up wear to the airport.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. anjin-san says:

    The jeans you see a lot of middle aged guys wearing – out west at least – with the flap pockets and embroidery – are truly sad. But I see a lot of guys wearing them and you can tell they are sure they are looking good.

    Agave jeans and pair of Donald J. Pliner loafers, drivers, or walking boots works for me. Still love the way Levis look & feel, but the quality is crap now. Sneakers with jeans is lame if you are over 30.

    Obama is a guy who has never had any problem looking good, maybe he is just not used to giving it much thought. His suits always look sharp, I believe he favors Hickey Freeman. (You can get their stuff, which is first class, for up to 70% off online with a bit of shopping)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. Andre Kenji says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Living in a country where the two presidents are Lula(A former Union leader with no High School education) and Dilma Rousseff, I know a lot about that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    He’s way more of a WASP than I am,

    If he is such a WASP, why are WASPs denigrating his dress? Why this thread? Same old story, he can have the money, he can have the clothes, but if he is going to get into the Club? Use the service entrance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  20. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I’m really tired of the notion that every single criticism made of Barack Obama comes down to race. All presidents and presidential candidates face criticism for this kind of thing. Dude wore dorky pants in public one time and it became a meme. There’s nothing “black” about the jeans he was wearing. They were just out of style.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  21. wr says:

    @anjin-san: “Sneakers with jeans is lame if you are over 30.”

    Unless you’re a TV writer. Then it’s the uniform.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  22. MarkedMan says:

    James, forgot the race comments. The real issue here is that you consider bucks stylish. I’m sorry. I think we need an intervention for you. This mid-western boy is 100% with the Prez when he goes for running shoes over (shudder) bucks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  23. wr says:

    @James Joyner: ” I’m really tired of the notion that every single criticism made of Barack Obama comes down to race”

    I don’t think this comes down to race. It comes down to class. And particularly a certain class — the ruling WASP elite. They hated Clinton because he was authentically from Arkansas and they loved W because they knew under all the phony Texas-isms he was pure East Coat Rich.

    And it’s not just Rs versus Ds. Nixon always believed they hated him because he wasn’t one of him, and in fact used his resentment as the basis of most of his political career. (See Perlstein…)

    Our presidents should not have to come from the ruling elite, nor should they have to dress to pretend they do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  24. anjin-san says:

    @ James

    I have to concur about the bucks. Not good. Try these

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. Rafer Janders says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    If he is such a WASP, why are WASPs denigrating his dress?

    Um, dressing shabbily is one of THE hallmarks of being a WASP.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. Rafer Janders says:

    @MarkedMan:

    This mid-western boy is 100% with the Prez when he goes for running shoes over (shudder) bucks.

    The fact that you’re a Midwestern boy may have something to do with that….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. Rafer Janders says:

    @wr:

    and particularly a certain class — the ruling WASP elite.

    We do have a ruling elite, but the WASP elite is no longer it. Prep school WASPs stopped running things about a generation or two ago — their dress style, however, lives on past them.

    Our presidents should not have to come from the ruling elite, nor should they have to dress to pretend they do.

    Again, Obama doesn’t pretend to dress this way — this is the way he dresses. I’ve got hundreds of middle-aged Ivy League graduate professional friends, white, Asian, Hispanic and black, and this is pretty much the way they all look.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  28. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: Bucks never go out of style and they’ve been very much back in fashion in recent years, especially with colored soles and laces. I’ve tended toward more neutral tones. I’ve got traditional white and dirty bucks but also gray and navy.

    @anjin-san: I’m not a huge fan of Magli, preferring Santoni and Ferragamo, but those are pretty nice. I’ve don’t have desert boots for whatever reason. Then again, with jeans, I’m not sure they look much different than these bucks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Bucks never go out of style and they’ve been very much back in fashion in recent years, especially with colored soles and laces

    Agreed — bucks are not “in style”, they’re just never out of style. They’re classics, like blue jeans, Top-Siders, tan trench coats, Converse sneakers, black leather jackets, or blue blazers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. Grewgills says:

    @Rafer Janders:
    I resemble that remark. I am thankful daily that I can go to work in cargo shorts and flip flops.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. ASK says:

    Could this be the only fashion thread in the history of OTB?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. grumpy realist says:

    @James Joyner: Maybe they’re more comfortable?

    (Spoken as someone who hasn’t worn jeans for years. Sheesh, menopause weight gain…in all the wrong places!)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. grumpy realist says:

    @wr: It’s isn’t even the standard New England class, either. All the upper-crust Boston Brahmins I know are all eccentric as the maddest Englishman and wear their clothes as if they hate them. And they don’t care.

    New England frump is a class status in itself. Then there’s intellectual frump, in which your local brilliant theoretical physicist looks like someone from the homeless population.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. Tyrell says:

    My jeans are faded and have holes. If I bought them like that they would have cost $40.
    I am holding out for the return of jeans in colors like white, red, and black.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. James Joyner says:

    @Tyrell:

    I am holding out for the return of jeans in colors like white, red, and black.

    White and black are back in. Red chinos have been in for a while now; haven’t seen in translate to jeans. Gray, yes; red, no.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0