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

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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

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.

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. Matched to dark-wash chinos and a classic dad-style white collared shirt, fans quickly became obsessed with the former POTUS’ green and white low-top pair. Similar designs can be found for just $80 at Adidas.com.

adidas, stan smith, sneakers, green, white, mens
CREDIT: Courtesy of Adidas

To Buy: Adidas Stan Smith, $80.

Most recently, Obama helped kick off his wife Michelle Obama’s new podcast in style. The Michelle Obama Podcast airs its first episode in July and featured the former president as the couple discusses their “connections to [their] communities.” O, The Oprah Magazine previewed a glimpse into the upcoming podcast on Instagram over the summer with a photo taken while the Obamas filmed their inaugural episode.

As seen in the image, the former chief of the nation kept up his cool-dad style by layering an untucked button-down shirt with dark-wash jeans and a pair of sustainable sneakers.

His Allbirds Wool Runners have been tagged as carbon-neutral, as the company announced the launch of its carbon footprint initiative this year, a calculation that measures the carbon output of each of its products. Its sustainable fabric incorporates superfine merino wool uppers and laces formed from recycled plastic bottles with trademarked Brazilian sugarcane SweetFoam cushioning. The all-black silhouette chosen by Obama retails for $95 at Allbirds.com.

allbirds, sneakers, sustainable
Allbirds Wool Runners in Natural Black.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Allbirds

To Buy: Allbirds Wool Runners, $95.

Obama has been sporting the pair of eco-friendly shoes for years now. At a Duke versus UNC basketball game in 2019, the political figure made headlines for his choice of the affordable pairs along with his custom embroidered $595 Rag & Bone bomber jacket. He also opted for the sneakers again while on vacation with his family in France last June.

When he isn’t in Adidas or Allbirds, The Chicago native also has been frequently spotted in pairs from his other go-to sneaker brands, Asics and Nike.

In May 2015 for example, Obama returned from a presidential retreat at Camp David sporting a pair of Swoosh-branded spikeless golf shoes. The pair provided a cool twist on dad-chic golfing style, matching to a Nike polo as well. Similar pairs of golf shoes can be found on the brand’s website with an $80 price tag.

barack obama, sneakers, style, dad shoes, golf, nike
Barack Obama walks from Marine One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., as he returned to the White House from the presidential retreat at Camp David, May 3, 2015.

A year later, the politician switched out his Nike pairs for a set of Asics kicks as he headed to his commemorative basketball game in November 2016; the POTUS plays basketball on every election day to keep up his tradition.

Sporting a Jordan Brand jacket and a Chicago White Sox hat, the dad-of-two made his way into the gym in his Gel-Cumulus sneakers from Asics; the style Flytefoam technology for added rebound on your steps and Gel technology for shock absorption. While Obama’s blue colorway of an older version of the shoe has since sold out, newer iterations of the style typically have a $120 retail price; currently, the pair is on sale, though, for just $80 at Asics.com.

As he prepped for his on-court game, the political figure also previewed his basketball shoes courtesy of Under Armour, holding tight to a red, white and blue pair in a patriotic twist.

barack obama, sneakers, style, dad shoes, asics, basketball
Barack Obama carries a pair of sneakers as he arrives for a private game of basketball at Fort McNair in Washington, Nov. 8. 2016.

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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