It’s a tradition steeped in questionable fashion choices.
At Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summits year after year, it’s become a tradition of sorts for world leaders to don matching jackets for a “family photo” worthy of competing with one’s most embarrassing childhood photos.
And as President Trump now heads to Vietnam to attend his first APEC summit as president, the question of whether world leaders will again partake in the tradition is one of the less controversial topics surrounding a summit that will be dominated by heavier questions related to trade and whether President Trump will have a face-to-face meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
World leaders have Bill Clinton to thank for starting the annual tradition back in 1993, when he hosted the summit in Seattle and gifted world leaders in attendance with matching bomber jackets.
The next year, the tables turned on Clinton, when it was his turn to don traditional Indonesian shirts selected by the summit’s subsequent host country.
And since then, the trend has continued with many other hosting countries also following suit in continuing the tradition.
Former President George W. Bush had a reputation for embracing the light-heated tradition in good humor, donning everything from a poncho during the 2008 summit in Lima, Peru to a traditional blue silk ‘ao dai’ at the 2006 APEC summit in Hanoi, Vietnam over the course of his 8 years in office.
But the tradition has remained strong ever since, and has shown no signs of falling to the wayside like so many other fashion-related trends.
President Barack Obama made no secret of the fact that he wasn’t such a fan of the tradition with his decision to nix it when it was his turn to host the APEC summit on his home turf of Hawaii in 2011, after previously threatening in jest that he would make world leaders wear aloha shirts or grass skirts.
“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,” Obama said at the time. “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.”
Though Obama may have managed a temporary break from the tradition, bad fashion habits die hard.
At the 2014 APEC summit in China, Obama donned a deep-red silk jacket for the group photo that drew comparisons to “Star Trek” character Jean-Luc Picard.