Obama's tan suit: How to wear a summer suit and be taken seriously

Much ado over a suit instead of the Syria crisis. US President Barack Obama departs the White House Press Briefing Room after addressing reporters in Washington.  -- PHOTO: AFP
Much ado over a suit instead of the Syria crisis. US President Barack Obama departs the White House Press Briefing Room after addressing reporters in Washington.  -- PHOTO: AFP

US President Barack Obama's press conference on Thursday was one of the hottest talking points - but attention was focused on his style, rather than the substance of his speech.

His tan summer suit totally overshadowed his speech about Russian responsibility for rebel actions in Ukraine and ongoing US air strikes against Islamists in Iraq.

Was it a refreshing choice by Mr Obama, who usually sticks to sombre colours like grey or blue, or a style faux pas for a serious event? Or was it a deliberate move, as some have speculated, to divert attention from his lack of a firm or bold strategy on Ukraine and Iraq?

We ask three fashion heavyweights in Singapore for their views, and tips on how to wear a summer suit and yet be taken seriously.

Daniel Boey (DB) - Fashion/Creative Director, TV personality

Hideki Akiyoshi (HA) - Director of fashion consultancy firm Wonderasia

Keith Png (KP) - Fashion Designer and Stylist, TV Show Host

So what did you think of Obama's tan suit? Was it a yay or a nay?

HA: I like it. He looks younger here and it is refreshing. The colour is okay but perhaps he should not have chosen a flat woven fabric like this. It looks too young or too casual because of the casual character of cotton, summer wool or linen.

DB: Yay. He looks good in it, and isn't that the way we usually pick our outfits, to flatter us? It brightens up his face so much more compared to the dark sombre colours that he's usually seen in.

KP: It's a yay for me. It's refreshing and less intimidating. However, the choice of the tie can be better - it could have been darker.

Do you think the tan suit was a tactical choice?

DB: I think it's a fresh and interesting choice. There is no one correct or wrong colour code for press conferences (okay, maybe not fuschia and lime green) and it's nice to see the president being a little more bold and less predictable with his choices.

HA: Yes. I think this brighter look was probably chosen to help soften his image given the tough military decisions he has had to deliver recently. It gives a lighter and less gloomy mood to the press conference which dealt with very serious topics.

KP: I'm not sure if the khaki suit was a tactical choice for the camera, but it certainly got him noticed in a controversial way.

How can one don a summer suit, and still be taken seriously?

KP: Wear your summer suit neat, proper and tidy. Ensure the suit fits perfectly! Match it with a formal dress shirt and tie to be taken seriously.

The suit should be fitted, not tight. And as summer suits are usually made from a lighter material like cotton, colours can be darker - such as deeper tones of tan, navy or grey - for the more serious look. You can check out Brooks Brothers or Boss for some good options.

DB: If you wear it correctly, i.e. with a tie or bowtie and stay away from the casual summer accessories like the open collared shirt, neckerchief and woven hat for example, you can still convey a serious tone.

There are different ways to wear a summer suit, and a time and place for each of the styles.

Also, keep the fit classic and you can't go wrong. My go-to labels for summer suits include Burberry, Raf Simons, Thom Browne and McQueen. Banana Republic have some fab ones too.

HA: Because of flat, light and thin fabrics we use for summer suits, it tends to look very casual. So you can try labels like Gucci, and look out for suits made with mixed woven of cotton, linen or silk fabrics rather than those flat woven fabrics of cotton, summer wool or linen. It will give more texture and convey a more mature look if you want to be taken seriously.

Here's what others are saying on Twitter:


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