President Obama destroyed two decades of tradition this weekend by refusing to wear funny clothes in the "family photo" taken every year with other world leaders at the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Since 1993, the leaders have worn native dress for the group shot, The Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler reports, but Obama nixed the idea even though the conference was in his home state of Hawaii, meaning they presumably would have worn grass skirts, colorful shortsleeve shirts, or some other Hawaiian tourist apparel. Obama was overheard mocking the idea while walking with several leaders, including Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, and Chilean Prime Minister Sebastián Piñera, according to Eric Weiner of the Tokyo Broadcasting System.
Gillard: (inaudible) going on about grass skirts ...
Obama: Its embarrassing enough ... coconut bras ...
Piñera: Where are the Hawaiian shirts?
Obama: We are ending that tradition [makes a horizontal cutting gesture while turning to look at Piñera as Noda smiles].
Obama hasn't always avoided looking funny. Here he is at the conference in Singapore in 2009:
Meckler reports that Obama's predecessor wasn't too excited about the outfits, but he did it anyway, as pictured above:
Michael Green, a member of the National Security Council under President George W. Bush, remembered the 2001 APEC summit when Mr. Bush was given a Fu Manchu jacket.
“He turned to the staffer who gave it to him and said, ‘If I go out on the stage and every leader isn’t wearing one of these, you’re going to wear this in the White House for the rest of the time you work here,’” he said. “And poor (Vladimir) Putin had a bright lavender one. So the president was — I think his was blue, so it wasn’t so bad.”