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Obama shelves APEC ‘silly shirts’ tradition

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These aren’t silly times and, fittingly perhaps, President Obama dispensed with the ‘silly shirts.’

For most of the last two decades, world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit would don exotic garb chosen by the hosts. The costumes made for a light moment at the picture-taking session -- sober leaders in bomber jackets or pajama-style robes.

This year’s summit, hosted by Obama in his native Hawaii, broke with tradition. As the leaders assembled for the photo, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was overheard talking about grass skirts; Obama, coconut bras.

PHOTOS: APEC ‘silly shirts’ through the years

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‘We are ending that tradition,’ Obama told his foreign counterparts.

Later in the day, Obama gave a news conference and was asked about his decision to end the ‘dress-up’ tradition launched by President Clinton.

Given the location, a reporter asked, why no aloha shirts and grass skirts?

‘I got rid of the Hawaiian shirts because 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. ‘I suggested to the leaders -- 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.’

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-- Peter Nicholas in Honolulu


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