Friday, August 29, 2014

‘The audacity of taupe’

THE PRESIDENT of the United States stepped before the button-down, blue-suited White House press corps on Thursday with statements about the U.S. strategy for dealing with the steadily metastasizing terrorist threat of the ISIS gang, and the equally malignant situation in Ukraine. In his brief appearance, President Obama broke with tradition in a way that said more about the White House press corps than anything else.

On a day that saw a high temperature of 86 degrees — with the Washington, D.C. forecast expected to average 89 degrees for each day of the Labor Day weekend — the dap president bounded into the White House Briefing Rom wearing a tan suit, a distinct departure from the charcoals and grays and navy blues that are the colors of the male plumage common to Foggy Bottom.

The twittocracy went nuts. To go by the reactions of reporters, you’d have thought Obama was there to announce DEFCON 1.

Esquire Magazine jumped in: “You are not the president of Sears.”

Jake Tapper of CNN was snarkily charitable in a recognizable way: “The audacity of taupe,” he tweeted.

Others weren’t charitable at all:

Amanda Wills, the deputy managing editor at Mashable, weighed in and clearly got it right away:

Others? Not nearly so much:

“Really not liking this Obama tan suit. Sends the wrong signals to our allies,” tweeted Andrew Kaczynski of BuzzFeed. And what might that signal be, the fact that it’s hot as hell in D.C. in the summertime? The importance of what Obama said on Thursday wasn’t mitigated in the least by the color of his suit. Good God, man, he didn’t walk out in a T-shirt and cargo shorts.

Like Tapper, Nicholas Confessore of The New York Times also had pun with the president’s new look: “Has anyone done ‘Yes We Tan’ yet?” (MSNBC picked that up this morning.)

As a scribe at the Gray Lady, Confessore might have known better if he’d been at The Times years ago.

Yours truly (who worked at The Times back in the day) can attest that it used to be a Timesian tradition for male reporters and editors to wear seersucker suits in the newsroom with the first humid blush of summer. Regular as clockwork, when the temperature went up in May and June, the Times guys could be seen, proud as peacocks,  strutting and preening in the blue-and-white pinstriped rigs they hauled out of their closets for two months out of every year.

It was no big damn deal, and this shouldn’t have been one either.

John Dingell, dean of the House of Representatives, cut the president some slack, lending Obama gravitas by association:

If it’s good enough for the longest-serving member of the House, it should have been good enough for anyone ... anyone with the courage to make a principled break with the past.

In a town in which the unpredictable and the thoroughly predictable square off every day, Obama’s Labor Day-weekend fashion choice was a perfectly seasonable choice, despite the raised eyebrows. It’s not that complicated: Lighter colors reflect direct sunlight, while darker colors absorb it. On an 86-degree day heading into a 90-degree weekend ... it suited him very well. Here ends the lesson.

Image credits: Obama: Tweets are the property of their sartorially-unenlightened creators, and those who get it.

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