The Next Great Fashion Icon: Kim Jong-Il

Two of my friends once went on a trip to North Korea. No, seriously. It is possible to go there, but you go in these small groups of 6-8 at a time, leave from China, and have to pay a ton of money. (They’re from Australia originally.) The trip was highly controlled and heavily guarded. They didn’t get to do anything spontaneous, and a cadre of guides, interpreters, and guards were with them at all times. They were told that they would be staying in Pyongyang’s finest hotel in the penthouse on the fiftieth floor. When they got in the elevator, it was the first time they’d been without guards since arriving. On a whim, one of my friends pushed a couple of extra buttons for different floors to see what the rest of the hotel looked like and it turned out that the entire building was a giant fucking slab of concrete with one floor of actual rooms at the top, all an illusion.

Why am I telling this story? Well, for one thing, it’s fucked up. But on another, it basically works to explain everything about North Korea. For example, it provides useful context for this story about how some North Korean newspaper (which is, shockingly, state-run) published an article claiming that Kim Jong-Il’s gray two-piece jumpsuit is being copied and purchased by fashionistas all over the world. The article neglected to add that the outfit was bought either for Halloween costumes or live action productions of Team America: World Police, but, like I said, “state run.”

State-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun this week claimed that the Dear Leader’s trademark two-piece jumpsuit — you know, the one that seems to highlight his shapelessness in medium gray — has become a best seller in fashion stores from Milan to L.A. The paper boasted that gents across the world were desperate to mimic his drab, never-changing look. “The august image of the Great General, who is always wearing the modest suit while working, leaves a deep impression on people’s minds in the world,” it declared. “That is because his image as a great man is so outstanding.”

Presumably worried that the North Korean people might not believe their short, dumpy despot is also an international icon of cool, Rodong Sinmun threw in a quote from an unnamed (read: imaginary) French fashion expert, who hailed Kim as a true fashion revolutionary. “[The] Kim Jong-Il mode, which is spreading expeditiously worldwide, is unprecedented in history,” the stylist supposedly said.

Um, right, dude.

Another highlight from my friends’ trip! So, the North Koreans accompanying the tour group around the country had absolutely no pop culture reference points, because, y’know, cut off from the world and whatnot. So my friends and the other people in their group had a running gag where they tried to use the word “ronery” as often as possible. Of course, the North Koreans didn’t get the joke. And, of course, that only made it funnier. Funny like thinking Kim Jong-Il is a fashion icon.

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