What happened to Obama’s guayabera?

Something didn’t happen at the sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia over the weekend. Yes, Western hemisphere nations failed to reach consensus on including Cuba in the gathering, overhauling the region’s drug policy (an expert taskforce will study the issue), or, really, much of anything. But I’m talking about something else: Barack Obama ...

EITAN ABRAMOVICH/AFP/Getty Images
EITAN ABRAMOVICH/AFP/Getty Images
EITAN ABRAMOVICH/AFP/Getty Images

Something didn't happen at the sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia over the weekend. Yes, Western hemisphere nations failed to reach consensus on including Cuba in the gathering, overhauling the region's drug policy (an expert taskforce will study the issue), or, really, much of anything. But I'm talking about something else: Barack Obama appears to have not worn a guayabera -- the light tropical dress shirt that several Latin American leaders are sporting in the summit photo-op above. And there's our president, looking decidedly stuffy in a suit jacket and (admittedly open) button-down. 

"Obama, loyal to his jacket. The others, in guayaberas," read a caption to a similar picture published in Venezuela's El Universal. (The article proceeds to critique the dress of several heads of state, noting that, among the female leaders, Costa Rica's Laura Chinchilla came closest to adopting the guayabera style.)

In the run-up to the summit, the daughter of Colombian designer Edgar Gómez Estévez told local media and the Spanish news agency EFE that she was making 130 guayaberas for Obama and that they would be more daring than usual because Obama was a "distinct, special, happy, and extroverted person." As far as I can tell, the White House never confirmed that Obama would be wearing a Gómez-designed guayabera.

Something didn’t happen at the sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia over the weekend. Yes, Western hemisphere nations failed to reach consensus on including Cuba in the gathering, overhauling the region’s drug policy (an expert taskforce will study the issue), or, really, much of anything. But I’m talking about something else: Barack Obama appears to have not worn a guayabera — the light tropical dress shirt that several Latin American leaders are sporting in the summit photo-op above. And there’s our president, looking decidedly stuffy in a suit jacket and (admittedly open) button-down. 

“Obama, loyal to his jacket. The others, in guayaberas,” read a caption to a similar picture published in Venezuela’s El Universal. (The article proceeds to critique the dress of several heads of state, noting that, among the female leaders, Costa Rica’s Laura Chinchilla came closest to adopting the guayabera style.)

In the run-up to the summit, the daughter of Colombian designer Edgar Gómez Estévez told local media and the Spanish news agency EFE that she was making 130 guayaberas for Obama and that they would be more daring than usual because Obama was a “distinct, special, happy, and extroverted person.” As far as I can tell, the White House never confirmed that Obama would be wearing a Gómez-designed guayabera.

Nevertheless, Cuba’s Fidel Castro latched on to the reports, dubbing the event the “summit of the guayaberas” and criticizing the U.S. president for planning to wear a shirt that originated in Cuba while barring Cuba from attending the summit.

To be fair to Obama, it appears that several leaders at the summit decided to forego the guayabera (and some are even wearing ties!):

So what happened with Obama’s wardrobe? Either the early media reports were wrong, or Obama had a change of heart about wearing the shirt. The real question: How long before we see a campaign ad accusing Obama of taking directives — on fashion, no less — from Fidel? 

Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland. Twitter: @UriLF

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