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Obama in 'Chicago-style': Fashionable or Offensive?

obamat2.jpgThe annual African American Holiday Association Marketplace Festival & Health Fair held Saturday at the Reeves Center in Washington, D.C.'s U Street corridor was also a festival of seasonal Obama gear. One T-Shirt, however, stood out among the piles of Inaugural and First Family calendars, sweatshirts, T-shirts, fans and posters. It pictured Obama "Chicago-style," as vendor Marcus Willis described it.

The CEO of SE-based Urban Body Works, Willis said the shirt was designed by local designer Tim Ransom; it imagines the 44th president in a sharp hat, three-piece suit and with a large diamond stud earing, like hip-hop mogul Diddy wears in his latest TV ads for cologne.

Nana Malaya, a festival performer, was not impressed.

"It turns a gentleman into a pimp," she said of the shirt, which irked her so much she came back to the table after a first pass to give Willis an earful. "I'm real upset at this T-shirt of Obama with a pimp hat," she said. The shirt turning "a gentleman and a dignitary" into "a pimp and a gangster" just wasn't fun in her book. "If the negative images weren't so perpetuated in the black community as it is, it would be different," she said.

After she had her say, Willis shrugged. Not all black men who wear earings and hats are pimps or gansters, he said. It's just "a fashion."

Story and photo by Garance Franke-Ruta

By David A Nakamura  |  December 23, 2008; 9:00 AM ET  | Category:  Souvenirs
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I don't think it's offensive but inappropriate.

Posted by: nall92 | December 23, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Go Nana. I have seen African American men who dress better nowadays, hold themselves higher, seek to hold close to family, and struggle the good fight. This, I think, is in part due to Obama's role model. I may not agree with him politically, but he sets a good example in his physical appearance, diction, and bearing. He is a gentleman. Amen, Nana.

Posted by: theeasypartsover | December 23, 2008 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Barack Obama will never be a great president until he stops supporting the slaughter of innocent babies inside of their mothers' wombs.

Posted by: Phil6 | December 23, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the person who commented that this may not be offensive, but it sure is inappropriate and smacks of stereotyping; and to add insult to injury, the stereotyping was done by a black person.

Lastly, black men have always dressed good; I don't know where and who the commenter is hanging around to assume that at some point in time, that black men dressed bad. At least that's the vibe I'm getting from that comment: black men dress better now a days.......Who have you been hanging around?

Posted by: kgeter631 | December 23, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

It's nothing. Combs' look is slightly pimp-meets-mafia (Gangsta/Gangster), but it's not one that perpetuates negative stereotypes. I don't seriously think the shirt is alleging that Obama is Fiddy or Capone. It's an average Obama shirt.

Posted by: scharb | December 26, 2008 1:19 AM | Report abuse

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