The Konformist

April 2006

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The Fashion Crimes of Dictators and Despots


Adam Gorightly

Some of the greatest atrocities in human history pale in comparison to the fashion crimes committed by those very same dictators and despots whose wardrobes will live in infamy. While dictator detractors foolishly focus their criticisms on such themes as genocide or ethnic cleansing, there are those of us (with a keen fashion sense!) who can see beyond gas chambers and the stench of burning flesh, to the real human horrors of bad hair, faulty accessorizing and poor color coordination.

At first, I figured it’d be a snap to whip up a list of the top ten worst dressed dictators. But as I looked into those fashion crimes committed by history’s totalitarian tyrants and goose-stepping fascists, I soon discovered that these evil-doers have been, by and large, some pretty damn sharp dressers.

However lean, though, this list may be, the fashion faux pas I’ll address here are of the highest order, often rivaling and even surpassing those of such celebrities as Cher, Michael Jackson and an aging, overweight Elvis decked out in sequined robes.

Let the roll call begin!

The Many Moods of Muammer

Muammer Qadhafi is arguably the most “eclectic” of despotic dressers. A true renaissance rogue, Qadhafi uses his flamboyant wardrobe like an expressionist painter choosing from a colorful and kooky palate, madly splashing colors about and letting his creative juices spill all over the canvas in often unsettling ways.

A splash of aristocratic playboy here, a dab of Arab sheik there, and a whole lot of military madman everywhere, and what you end up with are the many moods of Muammer making the world a much more interesting and dangerous place in which to live.

Of course, some would attribute Qadhafi’s apparent eclecticism in apparel selection to some form of multiple personality disorder, although others would write it off to an eccentric personality who somehow ascended to the highest office in his country.

Although Qadhafi’s heinous fashion crimes certainly don’t justify Uncle Ronnie’s bombing of Libya in the late 1980’s, just the same--it could be argued--some form of punishment is warranted. However, in the opinion of your present fashion reporter, such retributions should not be levied indiscriminately by renegade cowboy presidents but, more rightly, by fashion critics as yours truly, in the form of snide remarks and backhanded comments.

The Fashion Sins of Amin

Large in life and even larger in death, Uganda President Idi Amin was a walking advertisement for bad manners and a bloated ego, reflected in his ostentatious military get-up. A former heavyweight boxing champ with ambitions far greater than the sport, Amin decided to box his way into the world of politics, staging a successful military coup in 1971. Along the way he took few, if any, prisoners.

A lumbering, one man military parade in polished boots, Amin had a thing for medals--even if they bore no immediate connection to reality. To Idi, the bigger, clunkier and gaudier the medal, the better, as they hung ceremoniously from his tumescent torso. It seemed the chubbier he got, the more medals Idi hung on his grand chest and down onto his bountiful belly.

Perhaps each medal was symbolic of another 10,000 bodies butchered by his bloody regime, emblematic of McDonalds’ 50 billion burgers sold.

Phat Arafat

Palestinian front man, Yassar Arafat, wore a funny hat. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) While I realize the thawh is traditional headdress associated with the Palestinian culture, this in no means dissuades me from making fun of it -- because I’m an American, and that’s what we do!

Often times, Arafat would punctuate this look with a pair of cool beatnik shades to give him the shady swagger of a Vegas high-roller, accentuated by the scruffy beard of a swinging sheik on a three day drunk in the town that never sleeps.

Dude was phat. He will be missed!

Military Fatigues Are For Bores!

I consider a “lack of flair” among the highest of all despotic deeds; a tyrannical trend that ran rampant through communist countries for many years, starting with Chairman Mao’s drab gray garb that set the standard (among the commie fatigue wearing crowd) throughout the first half of the 20th century.

Trendsetter though he may have been, Mao just the same set back fashion 50 years in homeland China, which only in recent times has been able to pull itself out of this fatigue laden funk. A visit nowadays to a large city like Beijing is, fashion-wise, not unlike a drive through downtown L.A. — a vast wasteland occupied by finely figured females fitted in the latest western fashions, making the world a more pleasing to the eye place, however spoiled by decadence and decay. All hail communist capitalism!

In the early 60’s, Mao’s khaki stylizations were picked up on by Cuban leader Fidel Castro. With a fat cigar firmly planted in his whiskered jowls, Castro took the look to a new level of despotic drabness. For many years the bearded one rebelled against western fashion, though in recent years he’s been seen at international summits decked out in a trendy navy colored suit. So ladies, if there’s hope for Fidel, your slovenly dressed hubbies can’t be far behind!

Pant Suits, Big Hair and Nuclear Capabilities

But not only do the clothes make the man, but also the hair. North Korean Leader Kim Jong il is a prime example of this maxim, what with his over-the-top bouffant hairdo and funky pant suits that rival those polyester slacks my middle-aged mom used to wear back in the fashion-challenged 70’s. Combine this bad look with someone whose finger you ‘d rather not have poised over a nuclear button and what you get is this little roly-poly fat boy with a Napoleon complex mired in sexual ambiguity and framed in coke bottle glasses.

Makes you just wanna pinch his pudgy cheeks and muss his poofy hair. So cute!

The Bush Regime:

Over and Under Dressers

With the ushering in of the Patriot Act, some would argue that George W. Bush is a full-blown dictator in drag, which doesn’t suggest that he cross-dresses, but instead masquerades as a democratic leader, donning Lady Liberty’s skirt in order to dupe the masses into believing he’s a champion of freedom. And while Dubya himself remains a conservative dresser, his cabinet members make often ill-advised fashion choices.

While attending the 60th anniversary of the Auschwitz concentration camp liberation in Germany during January 2005, Vice Pres Dick Cheney committed a major fashion faux pas. As other prominent world leaders arrived at the event in proper attire--dark overcoats and dark shoes--Cheney sported a drab olive parka with a fur trimmed hood, accentuated by brown hunting boots and a cheap ski hat. (Fortunately he didn’t bring his rifle!)

On another recent visit to Germany, dictator in the making, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, conjured up images from the halcyon days of Nazi high style, as she showed up at a meeting of world leaders adorned in an all black getup, featuring tall boots, a long military style jacket and a revealing, above the knee skirt. This stylish and disturbingly sexy attire gave Ms. Rice the appearance of a sleeky dominatrix sizzling with a Nazi undercurrent. All that was missing from her wardrobe was a horsewhip and handcuffs. Such stalwart fashion sensibility brings to mind Herr Hitler’s heyday; of immaculate military suits, swastikas and zesty zeig heils. Although arguably one of history’s bloodiest tyrants, der fuehrer was, just the same, a snappy and immaculate dresser, who knew that appearance and presentation came first in the world of political theatrics. With that being said, I thought he looked awfully lame in lederhosen.

But that’s just me.


Known as the Mr. Blackwell of Conspiracy Theorists, Adam Gorightly has been writing on fashion and mind control since the early 1990’s. Adam is the author of The Shadow Over Santa Susana: Black Magic, Mind Control, and “The Manson Family” Mythos; The Prankster and The Conspiracy: The Story of Kerry Thornley and How He Met Oswald and Inspired the Counterculture; Adam Gorightly on Death Cults; and The Beast of Adam Gorightly: Collected Rantings 1992-2004.


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