Former President Barack Obama makes his first public remarks since leaving office. Suit. No tie.

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Former president loses a modern staple of presidential outfits

Monday's open-collar Obama reflected his mood

CNN  — 

Former President Barack Obama made his first public remarks since leaving the White House wearing a white shirt, dark suit jacket and, noticeably, no tie.

“So … uh … what’s been going on while I’ve been gone?” he joked on Monday at the University of Chicago while taking his seat, a reference to both his public absence and his successor.

As many Democrats across America have spent the opening days of President Donald Trump’s administration protesting and calling their representatives in Congress, Obama vacationed. Photos of him kitesurfing as well as standing on the top deck of a 138-meter yacht snapping a photo of his wife Michelle, showed a man enjoying presidential retirement despite Trump, who’s threatening to dismantles his signature legislation and who once questioned his citizenship.

Obama’s post-White House demeanor is unbothered, confident and cool, and his dress Monday reflected that.

Ties are a mainstay of Washington and politics. And for the eight years of his presidency, Obama was rarely seen without one, except when on vacation or the campaign trail, appealing to voters. When he wanted to appear presidential, the tie was there.

Post-presidential, it seems, is an entirely different look.

Ties became part of the presidential uniform beginning in the late 1800s – Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president, wore a long, light-colored tie for his official portrait rather than the black bowtie many of his immediate predecessors wore – and the look of the 20th century presidency is one largely decorated by neckties.

The exception has been campaigns, where candidates from Obama and Mitt Romney, to George W. Bush and Al Gore have gone tieless, often with sleeves rolled up, to show a more casual, but still presidential look.

US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan hold a rally in Daytona Beach, Florida, in 2012.

The 2016 campaign featured a different style, with a man whose name was once used to sell a line of ties running against the first-ever female nominee of a major party, their choice of casual dress often was defined by a “Make America Great Again” hat or a colorful pantsuit.

Although Trump did appear on the campaign trail on occasion without a tie, it was a markedly different look than past candidates. But the red power tie was his signature color, a change from the pink and gold ties he often wore in as star of “The Apprentice,” and easily identifiable in political cartoons, Halloween costumes, and on impersonators.

President Trump appears at a Carrier Plant this year.