Mr Obama, in Indonesia for a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders, was wearing the classic Batik shirt for the East Asia Summit Gala dinner in Nusa Dua, on the resort island of Bali.
The teal green, red, black, and white number was a far cry from the President’s usual monochrome attire, while the varying patterns of dotted lines, crisscrosses and figures-of-eight were visible from a fair distance.
The batik style of shirt varies across Indonesia but all use cloth made from a wax resist-dying technique.
Certain patterns can only be worn by nobility with wider stripes or wavy lines indicating a higher rank.
Balinese batik shirts are a relatively recent creation, influenced by the neighbouring Java island where the garments are more established, and have proved popular as souvenirs over the course of the 20th century in line with the rising number of tourists to Bali.
Traditional colours include indigo, dark brown, and white, which represent the three major Hindu Gods – Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
Mr Obama once lived about 750 miles away from today’s function on the southern tip of Bali, with his now-deceased stepfather Lolo Soetoro and mother Ann Dunham in Jakarta, Java.
Ms Dunham kept a vast collection of traditional Indonesian batik clothing, from the time she spent completing her doctorate in Yogyakarta, in the late 80s and early 90s.
Mr Obama was joined in wearing traditional clothes at the Gala by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
They were treated to a performance from sancers in elaborate traditional Balinese costumes complete with head pieces.
The Indonesian president welcomed guests in English and said for anyone tired from the journey to the country, Bali has ‘an amazing way to cure jetlag and rejuvenate strength.’
He said tonight the main duty was to enjoy. ‘Tomorrow our works begins. Tonight our business is everything but official.’
Earlier today the President said he saw ‘flickers of progress’ in Myanmar and dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for a historic visit that could draw the country out of half a century of global isolation.
Mr Obama said he had spoken for the first time with Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi who told him she supported more U.S. engagement with the country also known as Burma.
n another indication of change in Myanmar, Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, today re-registered to contest a series of by-elections for vacant parliamentary seats. This follows amendments to electoral laws and brings Suu Kyi a step closer to returning to politics.
Mr Obama said the release of political prisoners, relaxing of media restrictions and signs of legislative change in recent weeks were ‘the most important steps toward reform in Burma that we’ve seen in years.’
Mrs Clinton’s two-day visit from December 1 would be the first by a U.S. Secretary of State since a 1962 military coup ushered in 50 years of unbroken military rule that ended in March when a nominally civilian parliament was established.
Since then, the new government has called for peace with ethnic minority groups, displayed some tolerance of criticism, suspended an unpopular Chinese-funded dam project, freed about 230 political prisoners and reached out to Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate freed last year from 15 years of detention.
‘We want to seize what could be a historic opportunity for progress and make it clear that if Burma continues to travel down the road of democratic reform, it can forge a new relationship with the United States of America,’ Mr Obama said.
However, he cited stubborn U.S. concerns over Myanmar’s stance with North Korea, human rights, treatment of ethnic minorities and the continued detention of political prisoners.
U.S. officials have said these issues must be addressed before Washington can consider ending economic sanctions.
‘If Burma fails to move down the path of reform, it will continue to face sanctions and isolation. But if it seizes this moment, then reconciliation can prevail,’ Mr Obama said.