This past weekend, President Joe Biden spent his Sunday morning as many Americans often do: he went to church, and then he went shopping.
Biden, after attending a Catholic mass in Wilmington in his home state of Delaware, made a stop at menswear chain store Jos. A. Bank, located in a strip mall (underneath a Morgan Stanley branch, specifically) in nearby Greenville, where he spent about 20 minutes before leaving shortly before noon, wearing a tieless suit and carrying a brown paper bag. “A White House pooling duty first for me — we are standing outside a men’s clothing store in Wilmington as the president does some shopping,” Bloomberg correspondent Nancy Cook tweeted that morning.
While we could speculate endlessly about what Biden grabbed at Jos. A. Bank before noon on a Sunday—a tie? Some pocket squares?—an employee who answered the store’s phone on Monday afternoon declined to comment further about his visit, citing company policy. Perhaps the President did so because his usual preferred local tailor, Wright & Simon, is closed on Sundays.
Presidents, as one might imagine, do not typically wear off-the-rack suits, much less shop for themselves. Though heads of state do generally have to pay for their own clothes, it’s no surprise that they usually spring for designer and made-to-order: Obama opted for suits made by the Brooklyn label Martin Greenfield Clothiers, while Trump wore both Greenfield and made-to-measure Brioni. Of course, presidential suits also tend toward the sober. “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” Obama told Vanity Fair in 2012, a couple years before he wore that other suit. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
That said, presidential shopping trips can sometimes be a diplomatic maneuver, though it’s not clear if that’s what happened here. (Back in 2014, Obama made a photo-op stop at the Gap in Times Square, reportedly buying $154.85 worth of shirts for his wife and daughters as a show of support for the retailer raising its U.S. workers’ minimum hourly rate.) Menswear chains have struggled in the last decade; Tailored Brands, which operates Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A. Bank, Moores, and K&G Superstores, both filed for and then exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy during the latter half of 2020. Last month, Tailored Brands president John Tighe spoke to WWD, emphasizing the company’s bottom line:
“We’re still mostly dressing people for the important events in their lives,” Tighe said. “The way we look at it is that there are two main journeys: getting people ready for weddings and helping people look appropriate for work. That used to be a suit, but now it’s something between a suit and sweatpants, and is more refined.” For Biden, it could have been any of the above.