Once upon a time, the Olsen twins were the arbiters of enigmatic style, their monochromatic dress code and aloof chain-smoking pap snaps inspiring a generation of depressed Tumblr girls and would-be fashion editors to wear more black and use less shampoo. But nothing lasts forever, especially in the fickle who’s‑in-who’s‑out world of #fashion TikTok. Mary-Kate and Ashley, now 36, are and always will be cool, yes. But now, a new sibling duo seem primed to take their spot as the world’s coolest sisters. Now, it’s all about the Obamas.
When you think about it, Malia, 25, and Sasha Obama, 22, are the Olsens’ natural successors. Like the Olsens, they have been the most famous children on the planet for the majority of their lives, having moved into the White House aged 10 and seven, respectively. And although they didn’t have lucrative careers as child stars to simultaneously shake off and one-up as they entered adulthood, they did have a dad who was once the most powerful man in the world. How do you step out of a shadow as colossal as the presidency?
Short answer: you don’t even try. Over the past few years, Malia and Sasha Obama have become accidental internet style icons in spite of their efforts to stay (sort of) under the radar and live (sort of) normal lives. Seven years ago, 15-year-old Sasha got a summer job waiting tables and they both sacked off the usual nepo baby behaviour to go to uni – Harvard for Malia, University of Southern California for Sasha. And, crucially, they stay off social media.
Sure, their dad’s name probably helped aspiring director Malia bag an internship at The Weinstein Company (a few months before #MeToo), but at least she didn’t vlog it. It’s unlikely she would’ve ever met her new mentor Donald Glover if she wasn’t an ex-president’s daughter, but we can only be grateful that she didn’t announce her role as a writer on Swarm via a “dreams really do come true!” TikTok.
As Malia gears up to make her directorial debut with a short film for Glover, the conditions are fertile for the Obama sisters to grow into bona fide fashion icons. Whenever they’re papped, be it walking around campus or at a Hollywood party, their photos circulate online, with fans and bloggers praising Sasha’s “effortless college cutie” get ups and Malia’s “laid-back LA style”. And just like the Olsens, the sisters’ looks somehow manage to be in synergy while being distinct enough to define their own identities.
Malia is Ashley, offering a more refined take on their shared aesthetic, with slouchy pinstripe suits, oversized hoodies and boho braids that trail to her waist. Sasha is Mary-Kate, updating the ’90s hippie aesthetic in tie-dye maxi skirts, oversized dungarees and nails to rival Cardi B’s.
Then there’s Malia’s chain-smoking pap shots. There she stands, smoking a cigarette in the street, coolly disinterested in performing for the paparazzi that follows her – or anything else for that matter. Her outfit looks as though it was hastily thrown together after one two many hits on the snooze button, but the end result is enviably chicer than the slob-slut look you put on this morning. Your hair will never be able to emulate those effortless, dishevelled strands that fall down her back either. It’s so Olsen it feels like déjà vu.
What unifies the Obama sisters is that “laid-back”, “effortless” vibe that’s impossible to recreate unless you are, in fact, a genuinely laid-back and effortless person. And since approximately 98 per cent of the world’s population do not possess those qualities, we are destined to become obsessed with those who do – particularly when they’re well-dressed enigmas à la the Obamas and Olsens. In today’s age of confessional oversharing online, mystery is a quality so rare that, when applied to a famous person, it becomes gold dust, the ultimate flex, an irreplicable signifier of cool.
We know nothing about the Obama sisters beyond what the tabloids report. We see only small snippets of their life through seemingly uncoordinated paparazzi shots. We will likely never be privy to their sibling scraps, their memories from the White House or the contents of their bags. And so we will continue to obsess from afar, copying their outfits, hoping that, one day, we too can be as effortless as Malia and Sasha.