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12.01.09

Obama's Power Ties

Now that the president’s wearing powder blue, everyone from Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev are ditching their red ties in favor of a lighter shade. VIEW OUR GALLERY of true blue ties.

I blame President Obama.

There we were, happily trundling along for years with the classic definition of the power look: navy suit, white shirt, red tie—hell, when he first became Chancellor of the Exchequer under Tony Blair, it was Gordon Brown’s only uniform—and then bingo! Obama differentiates himself from John McCain by campaigning for the blue states (I know, I know, he’s the one who said there was no blue and no red, just Americans, yadda yadda, but he did run as a Democrat, there’s no denying it) wearing… a blue tie. Most often, a baby blue tie.

Click Image Below to View Our Gallery of True Blue Ties

Which, OK, was about his party affiliation, but also, subtly, about reconciliation (red=war; blue=peace), and calm, and climate control (oceans and sky).

He was the guy who came along once in a blue moon to save the country. He was blue chip. He was blue ribbon. He was true blue! And then his baby blue tie beat McCain’s red tie, by a pretty big margin. And then the pundits jumped up and down and proclaimed a new era, a new electorate, a new mood in the country.

He was the guy who came along once in a blue moon to save the country. He was blue chip. He was blue ribbon. He was true blue!

Admittedly, they didn’t get to the tie, but they should have. Because before you could say “Nobel Peace Prize for changing the global conversation,” power figures everywhere, from Japanese PM Yukio Hatoyama to Russian Pres Dmitri Medvedev, had tossed their old, stale, antiquated red ties into the backs of their closet and swapped their wardrobe allegiance. They could be hip, too! They could dig this new hue. It was no accident that on his first state visit to Washington, Prime Minister Brown signaled his willingness to work with the new guys by selecting, for his token Oval Office picture, a tie that was an exact clone of the blue one the president was wearing. Subtext: They were on the same team. Hypertext: If you want to be in charge, you can no longer look like you are from Mars. Chief executives everywhere are singin’ the sartorial blues.

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Vanessa Friedman has been fashion editor of the Financial Times since 2002. She writes a weekly column on style, edits the Business of Fashion supplements, and helped coordinate the FT’s Business of Luxury conference. Prior to joining the FT, she was the features/fashion features director for the launch of UK In Style, and contributed regularly to The Economist, The New Yorker, Vogue, and Entertainment Weekly.