Friday, May 20, 2011

Despot Chic: Fashioning Disaster

Daisy Phillipson on the odd penchant dictators have for questionable clothing


It was revealed last week that Gaddafi’s long-loved wife and daughter, Safia and Alisha, had crossed the Libyan border over to Tunisia. Some blame the fleeing on Gaddafi’s oil minister, Mr Ghanam’s departure to Tunisia for the OPEC (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) meetings, after they agreed Libya could be represented. A stronger argument is that as violence continues, there are bullets around the country with their names on them. But I don’t think it’s any of this political mumble jumble, I think the answer is much more close to home. It’s simple, would you want to hang around with a grown man who dresses like Michael Jackson circa 1983? It’s not a strong look, especially when you’re supposedly one of the most wanted men in the world. He wants to impose peril but all he gets out of me is a few cheap laughs. 

And it’s not just Gaddafi; it seems that a good old combination of mass murder, ludicrous power and unbalanced mental states all adds up to a beautiful mix that produces a time-lime of suffering and a wardrobe that Pat Butcher combined with an African Goddess would be proud of. I’d be fleeing too if I was related to a walking faux pas. In an interview recently he noted how he felt ‘betrayed’ by Western leaders, but I feel betrayed by his outfit choices. No-one born later than ’77 should be allowed to wear a bin bag dress, even if you are Mr. Big Man in your country. That should be noted under crimes against humanity


Another favourite is Kim Jong Il, the eccentric North Korean leader. With his platform shoes and bouffant hair, he is just a picture of cuteness. If you can see past the silly little way he may have, sort of, probably caused 2-3 million of his people to die of starvation and the fact he is one of the last people you’d want to see in charge of a nuclear weapons station, he is a dictator who has upped the ante in the fashion world. Where do they get their inspiration? I would suggest the Korean community believing he has the magical ability to “control the weather” based on his mood is probably not a belief that is going to ground him. Not only does he embark on father-son adventures, building death and torture camps around the country for any citizens they deem ‘undesirable’, but has also become a global vogue for his grey anorak and over-sized sunglasses. He even rocks platforms to elongate his beautifully clad body. Yes, Kim Jong Il knows how to take mentally unstable to the next level. When he orders that he be referred to only as ‘Supreme Leader’ he means leader in all the important sectors of life: politics, religion, murder, crimes against humanity and dictator chic.


On the subject of cute, podgy, scary, inhumane dictators, founder of the Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao was as useful as a damp dog when it came to choosing his glad rags. I would have thought that dictators would try to create a look of threat and tyranny when getting dressed in the morning, perhaps just a simple black suit with a look in your eye that says ‘I will literally kill your family, feed them to you, then kill you too’. Chairman Mao didn’t quite get there with suits that look suspiciously like he has borrowed them from a Victorian Schoolboy. The hair is questionable too. Here’s a suggestion, if you have a bald patch, don’t grow your hair to imitate Mickey Mouse ears. I thought you were supposed to hate the West. He may have caused the death of 60 million people, but Chairman Mao looks less of a threat than my Grandma on a Sunday morning.

If it’s possible to make a fashion statement the King of Bling, former Ugandan leader Idi Amin made a fashion essay. With his gargantuan torso dressed in military jackets that rivalled jewellery stores, his look screamed ‘I rule all’. Perhaps that’s why he chose to give himself the title ‘His Excellency, President for life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor, Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular’. Not the easiest thing to introduce yourself as but certainly effective. It doesn’t surprise me that Gaddafi’s BFF is one of the contenders of oddly dressed dictators. It seems he took charge in all aspects of his life. For example, if you were a member of a group he didn’t like, be it certain ethnic groups, religious leaders, journalists, artists, senior bureaucrats, students, criminals, homosexuals, and lawyers then he would kill you. And if he wanted to wear gold on his chest, equivalent to the wealth of his country, he did. He was not discriminative when it came to killing and neither when it came to accessorising. More evidence of madness creating impeccably daring wardrobe choices.


But who is the most outlandish when it comes to dictator fashion? Is it Gaddafi with his colourful African dresses? Or how about Mao with his classic starchy suits? If it were a competition I would have to say Kim Jong Il wins it in terms of innovation and originality. Where does a person find time to lead a country with one of the most mysterious and powerful armies in the world and still find time to updo that hair and find a pair of platforms to match his delectable khaki tunic?

But while these dictators may differ in fashion choice, there is one beautiful thing that unites them all together and that is being a stark-raving mad lunatic. God bless this world. 



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