At the London premiere of his latest movie, The Dictator, actor Sacha Baron Cohen arrived dressed as his alter ego, Admiral General Aladeen.
The General is depicted sporting a black army suit with gold detailing and white gloves, flanked by models in military uniforms incorporating mini-skirts.
His inspiration for the character is crystal clear: the late Muammar Gaddafi.
Like it or not, the ex-Libyan ruler – and other controversial leaders – have marked the world of fashion with their trademark styles.
Gaddafi's sunglasses and hats, Mobutu's suits and canes, Mao Tse Tung's collars; different garments used for the same purpose, the creation of a persona. In a word: 'dictator-chic'.
At this year's Fashion Weeks, designers like Dries Van Noten showcased shirts disguised as jackets and Versace Menswear had a whole gamut of dictator styles, including brass-encrusted berets, medals danging from greatcoats, lurid silk shirts with insignia and flamboyant combat fatigues.
Alexander McQueen's runway show was all about the mandarin collar with an edge, Mao-style.
Would any of those designers mention the ex-leaders as inspiration? The answer is probably not. Names like these have to be handled with care.
Ultimately, 'dictator-chic' is about standing out from the crowd: bold colours, heavy customising and a recurring accessory.
And since Robert Mugabe has launched his own clothing line in an attempt to reach younger, fashion-conscious voters, it seems 'dictator-chic' is here to stay – at least until the next putsch●
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