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Wearing a suit to walk the dog?

Even if you’re President of the United States, the style is somewhat jarring. On Tuesday, when the First Family unveiled their Portuguese water dog, Bo, to the world, the President made good on his promise to bring a canine into the White House — and perhaps displayed why suits shouldn’t be worn for exercise.

This story first appeared in the April 16, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

While introducing the First Pooch to the press on the White House lawn, the six-month-old spaniel broke into a run, prompting the suit-clad President to gamely — if awkwardly — scramble along, buttoned jacket and all.

While fashion observers have roundly applauded the President’s ability to dress up, the image of the usually cool Obama scampering after a dog like some sort of harried butler provided further evidence the President relies too heavily on his on-duty attire and has yet to master the subtle art of sportswear.

“I’d like to see him in a more casual wardrobe here,” said Tyler Thoreson, executive editor of “He’s clearly caught off guard by the dog and the suit doesn’t help. But until he can find the right casualwear, I actually think he should stick to suits.”

Since taking office, Obama has generally taken “sportswear” too literally, opting for gym-ready sweats and fleece when off the clock. “I’ve been a booster of his on-duty attire and a detractor of his off-duty attire,” Thoreson explained. “In the latter, he tends to wear gym gear that is straight out of post-collegiate days.”

Obama is not the first president to misuse tailored clothing. President Nixon regularly took to the beach in front of his vacation home in San Clemente, Calif., wearing wool pants, wing tips and button-front shirts — not exactly the epitome of coastal cool.

But where Nixon’s stuffy seaside ensemble reinforced his reputation as a man disconnected from the world around him, others see Obama’s suit run as further example of his pragmatism, his ability to adapt to the present moment — be it political or canine.

“He looks as comfortable as if he were wearing khakis, and he doesn’t look formal, uncomfortable or stuffy,” said Marty Staff, president and chief executive officer of JA Apparel Corp., whose Joseph Abboud-brand suits are sold around the country.

“He’s a graceful guy,” added Thoreson. “He regained his composure and, in the end, pulled it off. I can’t image Nixon doing the same.”

But neither man was willing to endorse the suit as appropriate dog-walking attire.

Would Staff walk his dogs in wool jacket and pants? “It would never happen.”

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