Blog: Move over Che, Kim Jong chic is here

Simon Warburton | 9 April 2010

It may be fanciful, it may be stretching the bounds of credulity, but the renowned dress style of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, is apparently creating something of a storm.

Instantly recognisable by the cut of his rather plain jib, the Dear Leader - who once remarkably sank an improbable number of holes in one to make those currently at Augusta blush (anything is possible in the Democratic People's Republic) - has now seemingly attracted the attention of a gaggle of French haute couture experts.

Well all right, one. It has to be said these French 'experts' aren't exactly queuing up to praise the diminutive leader's dress sense but there is one - very sensibly anonymous - critic who has seemingly praised Kim Jong Il's 'mode' and claims it is spreading worldwide.

Maybe the coy French critic is pitching for a free holiday to the last bastion of Stalinism on earth - best advised not to take on the Dear Leader at golf perhaps - but is there something in Kim's garb that could catch on?

Is it that 'everyman' look - the brown slacks married with brown zip tunic and topped off with those famous trademark specs - NHS specials circa 1952 - that has created such a stir?

There never seems to be any difficulty for the chief in selecting that day's wardrobe, no tricky shirt/tie, shoe/trouser combination or indeed any combination at all - just that austere, revolutionary trademark outfit.

Winter sees Kim don a baggy, lifeless coat, sometimes with a baggy, lifeless hat to ward off the worst of the severe Korean winter - standing in front of millions of your adoring masses requires a certain amount of insulation.

just-style is not privy to what the Dear Leader wears in summer - brown swimming trunks? - but it did get a taste of the regime's footwear thinking - shoes being a relative success story for the Republic.

This from the Korean Central News Agency, an august body not exactly renowned for its snappy copy. "Scientists of the Control Machine Institute under the State Academy of Sciences of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have established a modern injection-moulding control system equipped with hundreds of sensing and driving elements including up-to-date control devices."

Well quite. Although speaking as someone who has stood at the Demarcation Zone between North and South Korea - where two of the world's largest armies stand almost toe to toe - the South rather bizarrely playing Abba music - I can maybe get a sense of that 'Control Machine Institute.'

Gazing out across no-man's land to the north there are a collection of rather natty looking houses. Except this is a potemkin village. No-one lives there , it's all for show.

And, dominating everything is an extraordinary tall flagpole with an extraordinarily large North Korean flag.

The reason it's so tall? It clearly has to be taller than the flagpole on the South Korean side.

Control Institute indeed.

By Simon Warburton.

 


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