Dictator Chic


Written by Hatti Whitman
19 Monday 19th December 2011

Kim Jong-il eschewed most of these trappings, choosing instead a simple wardrobe composed of plain suits in black or khaki with the occasional addition of a parka and trapper hat for Autumn/Winter styling.  In every season however he was a sunglasses fan, often accessorising with a cheeky 'dictator? moi?' trademark grin, or his signature look of intense yet dispassionate concentration. 

By contrast, the other big despot downfall story of the year had a much more flashy protagonist. Muammar Gaddafi stood at the opposite end of the dictator-style-spectrum to Kim Jong-il (although they shared a penchant for sunglasses). Gaddafi made full use of his position as crazed megalomaniac to clothe himself in flamboyant takes on traditional dress or military uniform, with the 'bling' factor provided by a full chest of medals.

Also a big fan of a uniform was Benito Mussolini, former fascist Prime Minister of Italy. Clearly hoping to go down in history not only as a crazed, power-hungry egomaniac but also as a style guru, he famously declared that "The Italian woman must follow Italian fashion. Taste, elegance and originality have demonstrated that this initiative can and must be successful." Here's the man himself demonstrating taste, elegance and originality. That and the massiveness of his chin.

In a departure from uniformed style Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe, is never to be seen out of an immaculate suit-shirt-tie combo. Like an evil history professor, Mugabe accessorises with horn-rimmed specs and a look of icy fury. Unless he's smiling, which is even scarier. Mugabe actually has his own fashion line, House of Gushungo. Gulp.

Maybe he's not a dictator (although there was definitely something dodgy about his election) but there should be an honourable mention in this list for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, whose abuse of the humble sports jacket has been noted by style blogs around the world.

Finally, deserving an honourable mention for single-handedly monopolising the moustache wax supplies of the entire USSR for twelve years (and committing any number of other, more heinous crimes) is the dictator who set the tone for having personal style. We mean Josef Stalin, of course. Sharply-suited or uniformed, never without a walrus-like upper-lip-warmer, his is the face that springs to everyone's mind upon hearing the phrase 'dictator-style'.

Do you have a favourite image from Kim Jong-il Looking at Things? Let us know that or any other thoughts in the comments box below.

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