Obama dons purple silk shirt for photo

Getty Images

In any other context, spotting President Obama in a dark purple silk shirt reminiscent of a Star Trek uniform during a high-level overseas trip might be considered a fashion faux pas.

ADVERTISEMENT
But not at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, where forcing some of the world’s most powerful leaders to don colorful shirts for a group photo is a more than two-decade tradition.

Obama obliged, joining Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, among others, in donning the shirt.

The tradition actually began in 1993, when former President Bill ClintonBill ClintonClinton slams Trump on immigration in Arizona op-ed The Trail 2016: Berning embers Poll: Most say Trump should cut business ties MORE presented world leaders gathered in Seattle with bomber jackets. Since then, presidents and prime ministers have donned a whole assortment of garb.

Obama actually tried to kill the tradition in 2011, when the summit was held in his home state of Hawaii — despite the prime opportunity to force his fellow leaders into wearing Hawaiian shirts.

"Two years ago, when I was in Singapore and it was announced that we would be hosting the APEC Summit here in Honolulu, I promised that you would all have to wear aloha shirts or grass skirts,” Obama told the other world leaders. “But I was persuaded by our team to perhaps break tradition, and so we have not required you to wear your aloha shirts, although I understand that a few of you have tried them on for size, and we may yet see you in them in the next several days."

Pressed on the point by a reporter later during the summit, Obama conceded world leaders were embarrassed by the outfits.

“I had looked at pictures of some of the previous APEC meetings and some of the garb that had appeared previously, and I thought this may be a tradition that we might want to break,” he said. “We gave them a shirt, and if they wanted to wear the shirt, I promise you it would have been fine. But I didn’t hear a lot of complaints about us breaking precedent on that one.”