How Former President Barack Obama’s Style Has Evolved Over the Years

As president, Barack Obama was never known for his fashion.

In fact, Obama stuck to a uniform of sorts: a gray or navy suit with dark lace-up shoes.

I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make,” the president said in a 2012 Vanity Fair profile.

David Cameron, Barack Obama, Downing Street, LondonUS President Barack Obama State Visit to Britain - 22 Apr 2016
Barack Obama at 10 Downing Street in London on April 22, 2016, wearing a dark suit and black shoes.
CREDIT: Nils Jorgensen/Shutterstock

The president applied the same no-fail formula to his formal wear. For inaugural balls, state dinners and the like, he wore the same tuxedo throughout both terms. While wife Michelle Obama impressed in dazzling dresses from brands such as Jason Wu, Prabal Gurung and Michael Kors, the president was a loyal sidekick in his signature tux, complete with a crooked black bow tie.

President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle ObamaCongressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Phoenix Awards Dinner, Washington DC, America - 26 Sep 2009
President Barack Obama wears a tuxedo and black shoes with wife Michelle Obama at the 2009 Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Phoenix Awards Dinner.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

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While the Harvard Law School alum was notorious for keeping things simple, he did mix things up for an August 2014 press conference, choosing a tan suit instead of his usual gray or navy. The seemingly benign change caused an uproar on social media and among the press, as many felt the look was too casual. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes even joked that the suit was the “biggest scandal” of the Obama administration.

Barack Obama, tan suit, controversy, Barack Obama President Barack Obama leaves the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, after speaking about the economy, Iraq, and Ukraine, before convening a meeting with his national security team on the militant threat in Syria and IraqObama, Washington, USA
President Barack Obama wears a tan suit and brown shoes in the White House press briefing room in August 2014.
CREDIT: Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock

POTUS is often referred to as leader of the free world, and there’s no denying the gravity of the issues the president grapples with on a daily basis. Thus, it’s not surprising that Obama opted not to focus on his wardrobe throughout his eight years in the Oval Office: Fashion is the least of a commander in chief’s concerns.

In his post-presidential life, however, Obama has seriously upped his style game, making headlines for his sartorial success on multiple occasions. Social media users loved the politician’s leather jacket at the 2019 NBA Finals, which had a “44” patch in reference to his being the 44th U.S. president. More recently, Twitter went crazy after noticing the former president in a pair of Adidas Stan Smith sneakers during a December 2019 trip to Malaysia with the Obama Foundation.

Has POTUS found a new calling as a style icon? Only time can tell, but one thing’s for sure: So far, netizens are loving his post-White House looks.

Click through the gallery to see more of President Barack Obama’s style.

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