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Tailoring Maketh Man: Barack Obama’s Suit of Return

LONDON Barack Obama, who was last seen in London in 2016, made a stylish cameo going in and out of 10 Downing Street on Monday to meet with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to discuss the Obama Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 2014.

The 62-year-old former U.S. president wore a sleek dark gray two-piece suit with a white shirt and a silk necktie printed with white and gray squares. The suit’s sharply cut trousers sat just above his black shoes.

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A two-piece suit is nothing new to Obama — it’s been his uniform for decades of his life working in politics and during his tenure as president from 2009 to 2017. His suits rotate between shades of blue, black and gray, as well as the one-off tan number in 2014.

barack obama wearing a suit, dege & skinner brand, Former US President Barack Obama reacts as he leaves 10 Downing Street in central London, on March 18, 2024, following a meeting with Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Barack Obama at 10 Downing Street in London.

“The ensemble is very classic and looks good on him. In this case less is more, which makes his outfit special,” said William Skinner, managing director at London’s Dege & Skinner, a founding member of the Savile Row Bespoke Association located at 10 Savile Row.

“To dress in a classic manner, as a past president, he is not trying to make a fashion statement, but to be respectful of the office he once occupied and to the office he is visiting,” he added.

The official residence and office of the British prime minister, 10 Downing Street is a place that’s witnessed many suits: Tony Blair in Paul Smith, David Cameron in Richard James and Sunak in Henry Herbert, an ex-Savile Row bespoke tailor and shirtmaker.

The current prime minister has also confidently shown that he loves dressing up in Prada, Palm Angels and Common Projects.

“The darkness and brushed finish of the cloth makes this suit feel more interesting and sophisticated than how we are used to seeing politicians dress,” agreed Dag Granath, cofounder of Stockholm-based tailoring brand Saman Amel.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 28:  U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House August 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. President Obama spoke on various topics including possible action against ISIL and immigration reform.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Barack Obama’s tan suit in 2014.

“Tailoring is so much more than just wearing a suit, as well as being a symbol of formality. It can also be a vessel for men to showcase their personal style — having a good tailor is the secret to getting tailoring right at any age as they can help you improve the two most important qualities of an outfit: fit and silhouette,” said Olie Arnold, style director at Mr Porter, praising Obama’s tailor.

The necktie, which was deemed done and dead by ​​the likes of Canada‘s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; French President Emmanuel Macron; German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and U.S. President Joe Biden in 2022 at the G7 Summit in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, is having a resurgence.

On the men’s fall 2024 runways, the necktie made a polished comeback with Saint Laurent’s take on ‘80s power dressing; Prada’s colorful neckties in shades of brown, green and yellow, and Valentino’s super skinny neckties.

“Obama is an elegant man who knows how to tie his necktie neatly and at the right length. Here on Savile Row, we’d say the wearing of a necktie makes an outfit complete and in some circles it never disappeared. When worn correctly, a smartly knotted necktie gives an air of authority and responsibility,” said Skinner.

Saint Laurent Men’s Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection at Paris Fashion Week
Saint Laurent Men’s Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection at Paris Fashion Week

At Dege & Skinner, charcoal gray and dark blue suits have been proving popular for formal business occasions, but for men wanting to add a touch of individuality to their uniforms, there’s been a demand for sports coats and blazers in plain hues or checks; tweeds or linens, and even denims.

At Mr Porter, customers are getting excited to dress up again and experiment with tailoring. A majority of suits on the website are now sold as separates.

“Relaxed tailoring that can be mixed and matched is at the forefront of what men want now. Brands such as Tom Ford, Brunello Cucinelli, Canali and even our private label Mr P. are amongst our bestselling tailoring brands. We’re also seeing pieces such as unstructured blazers and wide-leg pleated front trousers incorporated into daily outfits for both work and play,” said Arnold.

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