This is a continuation of a light-hearted series that looks at the sartorial taste, or lack thereof, among current government leaders and heads of state. The first article cast a discriminating eye at the penthouse of fashion among world leaders, while this article will remain solidly in the outhouse of global politics.
A friendly reminder to the leaders who should find their names on this dubious list: please keep your left-wing populist hordes, communist secret police and religious militias from forming an angry mob outside my window – this article is done entirely in jest. With that, enjoy.
10. Baburam Bhattarai – Nepal
Dr. Bhattarai certainly dresses like the Maoist he professes to be. In an attempt to appeal to the proletariat he dons particularly ill-fitting and drab sweater-sport coat combinations. Becoming Prime Minister has not changed his poor fashion sense, although his stubbornness is unsurprising considering his dogged support for a political ideology which even China has rejected.
9. Evo Morales – Bolivia
Building on the ugly sweater theme, the style of the 80th President of Bolivia can only be described as “Latin American Populist Chic.” He must be given credit for not being nearly as much of a fashion disaster as other leaders of his political leaning. In fact, some of his Aboriginal-inspired wear is actually quite refreshing. However, his seeming love of frumpy sweaters and cheap tracksuits puts him at number 9 on the list.
8. Salva Kiir Mayardit – South Sudan
President Mayardit resembles a South Sudanese Buffalo Bill Cody (a.k.a. “Waterbuffalo Bill”?). You have to give him credit for being experimental, but seriously, what’s with the cowboy hat, beard, and boxy suits? Perhaps he is cultivating his image for a jump into grassroots Texan politics.
7. Fidel and Raul Castro – Cuba
In many ways the Castros, Fidel in particular, could be considered the Christian Diors of Latin American leftist style. They successfully transformed the rough-and-tumble image of guerrilla revolutionaries into a style that has remained classical and in vogue for over 50 years. Like many fashion houses their style is knocked off by copycats around the world and have taken on a cult-like status. However, the two are still responsible for starting a “Cuban Fashion Crisis” of counterfeit track suits, dull military wear and unbuttoned shirts that has yet to be resolved. The solution: America should lift its embargo on Cuba and intervene with its weapons of Nordstrom and Saks 5th Avenue and open locations in Havana.
6. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – Iran
Ahmadinejad’s clothing statement is truly unique: he resembles a low-paid academic who cobbled together items from the clearance rack of Zellers (a bankrupt Canadian chain) and the now-defunct Wayne Gretzky of The Bay, while missing the shaving section in his haste. Not surprisingly, though, coming from the chief apparatchik of a regime that considers ties to be too western and too bourgeois. Thankfully, his intended image of piety, humility and thrift thankfully has not yet become the dernier cri in the region.
5. Mohamed Said Fofana – Guinea
Mohamed Said Fofana, the Prime Minister of Guinea gets the number 5 spot for his blue leisure suit. His overall appearance is modest and reflects his reputation for being a technocrat. He was a successful businessman and economist in his pre-political days. Give him credit for his association with an administration in a newly democratic country.
4. Goodluck Jonathan – Nigeria
President Jonathan of Nigeria comes in at number 4 with his very *ahem* unique style. Few, if any, understand his bowler hat/semi-fedora that makes him resemble Dick Tracy mixed with a low-budget Nigerian music video. On top of his appearance, Goodluck has attracted a lot of attention for his backing of the removal of huge fuel subsidies in Nigeria and effectively debating himself in a televised presidential debate.
3. Hugo Chavez – Venezuela
The only Latin American revolution El Commandante is uniting is one of bad fashion. It is too bad that when King Juan Carlos of Spain told him to ‘shut up’ he did not also tell him to fix his wardrobe. This Castro-wannabe gets low marks for his silly military uniforms (although better than the Cuban equivalent), strange red shirts, and kitschy track suits. It is ironic that this self-styled neo-Bolivar has such terrible taste compared to his hero who appeared to be a fellow of notable sartorial persuasion.
2. Daniel Ortega – Nicaragua
This Sandinista’s misgivings go far beyond his poor fashion sense. As a young revolutionary he engaged in numerous criminal acts, including bank robbery. After an apparent conversion from Marxism to a more socially democratic outlook he took power again in 2006. Since then he has expressed for the FARC, the breakaway republics of Georgia, maintained close ties with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and was one of the few leaders to express support for Muamar Gaddafi in the Libyan Civil War. Under his presidency his very casual “hang loose” approach shows through in both his style and his approach to the rule of law and constitutionalism.
1. Kim Jong-Un – North Korea
The Supreme Leader of North Korea takes the dubious honour of being, by far, the worst dressed world leader. Not only is he leader of the cheap Stalinist knockoff that is North Korea, but he also comes from three generations of abysmal taste. His “cranky baby” image is only reinforced by his love of party-approved puffy down jackets and navy wool romper suits. A good starting point for dialogue with suave South Korean politicians may be in the world of clothing, although he may find it difficult to get permission to change his oh-so-communist style from his long-dead grandfather who eternally presides over official leadership of this ridiculous country.
One can conclude that the more left wing and/or populist a leader is the worse they dress. The more one “tailors” their messaging to the lowest common denominator, the worse one will try and appear for the cameras. Politicians also tend to dress poorly when they become more authoritarian, especially if they are the head of a nutty personality cult. Simply put: why dress well when you are a self-styled God among mortals? Surely the laws of worldly aesthetics do not apply!
There are two notable right-wing exceptions to this rule and they should be given a [dis] honourable mention. They are not included on this list because they are not national leaders. The first is Rob Ford, the Mayor of Toronto, a fellow who would be better suited fashion-wise to sling hot dogs at a baseball game than in political office.
The second is Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, a great fellow, but the international poster boy of the “slob” style.