Did Barack Obama Start the Dad Shoe Trend?

There are many serious things that President Obama is known for in government and politics. But when it comes to fashion, the former president’s personal style has become something of a long running joke.

Images of his off-duty looks featuring loose-fit, straight-leg jeans and Asics and New Balance sneakers are thoroughly cemented in the public’s perception of Obama as a dorky dad who just happened to be the leader of the free world.

President Barack Obama rides bicycles with his family in Martha’s Vineyard on Friday, Aug. 27, 2010.
CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

A snapshot of Obama on a bike ride in 2010 in an ill-fitting helmet and equally ill-fitting stone washed jeans — complete with tucked-in polo shirt and what are clearly “dad” sneakers — have proven to torment him throughout his time in office and beyond.

“I’ve been unfairly maligned about my jeans,” Obama told Ryan Seacrest back in 2014 when the radio host told him he needed some new denim. “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.”

barack obama, dad shoes, obama style
President Barack Obama is dressed in casual clothes as he departs the “Spy Museum” in Washington, Friday evening, July 30, 2010.
CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Many would beg to differ with the president. But that doesn’t mean his fashion choices haven’t been influential. As both the “mom” jean and the dorky “dad” shoe have continued to dominate fashion, one can’t help but wonder if President Obama has something to do with it.

Could Obama actually be responsible for the “dad” shoe trend after all? In honor of the president’s birthday today — and the resurgence of the trend last month at Milan Men’s Fashion Week, it’s worth an explanation.

As with any trend, one only needs to look back a decade or so to see the full cycle, especially after photo-ops of the president showed him in similar fashion choices. Yet another example of this is when Obama wore his mom-jeans-and-dad-shoes combo in 2009 at the White Sox v. Cardinals game that took place in St. Louis where the president threw out the first pitch.

barack obama, dad shoes, obama style
President Barack Obama throws out the first pitch at the St. Louis Cardinals game on July 14, 2009.
CREDIT: AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari

Throughout his time in office, the president favored the dorkiest looking styles from Asics – and eventually, New Balance, when the Massachusetts-based brand made a pair for him in 2012 through the company’s Made-in-America program.

It was during the Obama presidency that the “normcore” trend started to take shape and then exploded, in 2014.

Then, in 2016, just as Obama was getting ready to leave the White House (and nostalgia for the Obama years had already set in for many), Balenciaga released its Triple S, the sneaker that would become known as the dad shoe of all dad shoes.

Since then, virtually every athletic brand — and nearly every major luxury fashion label —  has made a “dad” shoe, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down.

Obama as fashion influencer. Who knew?

New Balance 624

New Balance’s chunky sneakers are a classic dad shoe style. You can’t beat its signature lifted base with a thickened toe and treaded outsole, complete with vintage detailing.

New Balance;
CREDIT: Courtesy of New Balance

To Buy: New Balance 624 Cross-Trainer, $75.

Crocs Clogs

Unlike a classic clog, this Crocs shoe uses leather panels for a more work-ready look that can be worn to the beach or pool, too.

crocs, leather crocs, brown
CREDIT: Courtesy of Amazon

To Buy: Crocs Yukon Vista Clog, $29-$117.

Nike Air Monarch IV

If your dad prefers lifted over flatter style, Nike’s take on the silhouette is the ultimate pick with its mega-boosted sole featuring an Air unit for comfort.

nike air monarch, dad shoes
Nike Air Monarch IV; $55; nike.com.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Nike

To Buy: Nike Air Monarch IV, $58 (was $50).

All products featured have been independently selected and curated by our editorial team. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn commission and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes. 

Access exclusive content