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Category Archives: sartorial dictatorial splendour

When Saparmurat Niyazov died in 2006 he had spent a third of his life at the top of the Turkmen state. He dressed in undistinguished suits, particularly disappointing given the heritage of traditional dress he could draw on:

He did however make a notable contribution to architecture. Just look at all the trees and lampposts, rather like someone’s gone wild dragging and dropping on the Sims:

His gold statue, which adorns the Neutrality Arch in the capital, rotates twenty-four hours a day so as to always face the sun (at some point in the day Turkmenistan must be opposite the sun, so does he look down his oesophagus and out his own arsehole?)

He also added more than his share to the poetic canon, penning the immortal lines “You are a lion more than a lion, just find a battle field for you/Let your cream boil over always, never feel the lack of it/You are the Türkmen, with Garagum, so many minerals in its core”

Niyazov is credited with a list of absurd decrees, banning beards, lip-syncing, newsreaders from wearing make-up, gold teeth, owning more than one dog or cat, and, most bizarrely, smoking in public places!


It’s been hard to ignore Gaddafi lately, and, judging by such a performance, this is precisely his intention.

In the first couple of decades of his rule, Western commentators found it difficult to reconcile his support for apparantly contradictory ideologies, subversive groups and rebel movements. He remains a man of contrasts, neatly summarised by two polar looks, the tribal and the military.

With the former, the clothes are dynamite and the Africa lapel pin adds such class that even the stiff competition (togas over suits; have I just discovered the biggest trend of 2010 or what?) in the rest of the shot fades into the background. However, Gaddafi has, as ever, taken strong foundations and ruined it with a 19-year-old’s beard and a pair of Bono specs from which he alarmingly seems to be inseparable of late. Sharing another Bonoism, he also funds the Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights, on a par with Allen’s Zelda Fitzgerald Award for Emotional Maturity.

But while the tribal style is a mixed bag, the militaria is consistantly calamitous. The medals and sashes are so tacky and overstated that you end up with some nightmare combination of Michael Jackson at the Sultan of Brunei’s fiftieth birthday and David Lynch’s Dune.

Like all the most sartorially savvy leaders, Gaddafi has realised the need to stand out from his posse. He does so by only employing female bodyguards, who have lovely burgendy and gold berrets if unfortunately un-uniform uniforms. See if you can spot the differences below.

Found them? Well there’s plenty but most notable is that the one on our left is wearing a man’s uniform, see the buttons are on the wrong side, hence its stupid baggyness.

Where Gaddafi excels, and this may well excuse the aformentioned transgressions, is in interior design. Wherever he travels, Gaddafi does his best to bring along his Bedouin tent, pictured below, in which he holds diplomatic engagements.

While the outsie is no more impressive than Zippo’s big top, the interior is a mishmash of prints that puts Liberty to shame. Personally, I would avoid tramping around with heavy baroque furniture if following a nomadic code and I think this would stylistically, as well as practically, benefit the interior.

Curiously, there are few interior shots that don’t capture the man-size box of tissues on the table. Like a painting of the northern renaissance, dictators’ everyday objects are invested with a mysterious symbolism. In this case, I can’t quite work it out but perhaps its intended to suggest that he makes western statesmen cry like a baby at his demands and fellow socialists weep at the story of imperialist oppresion.

Anyway, he was clearly upset by the jarring shoddiness of a carbord tissue box centre stage on meeting Blair and had these classy little tissue chests made for a more recent meeting with Ukraine’s Tymoshenko.

Ramzan Kadyrov has to be one of the most casual presidents ever to exist, perhaps beating even Evo Morales. When he has had to where a suit, like at his father’s funeral, he blew convention, dropped the tie and went with a bright blue jacket that made Putin practically invisible.

He and his crew, the Kadyrovtsy, are alledged to have been involved in inestimable numbers of murders and disappearances, as well as the odd sex scandel. On that note, here he is below at the Chechnyan beauty contest after party; the one, as usual, who looks least like a politician and most like Avid Merrion.

Here’s a selection of some carefully selected and more wholesome day-to-day activities, which include a lot of dancing.

I’ve always been a fan of dancing presidents. From a PR perspective, its about the best possible distraction from your involvement in unsavory incidents like illegal wars and sexual scandals, but perhaps not alcoholism.

Kadyrov seems to have taken his style queues from James Bond villains. He owns a pet tiger and lion, which, he told the BBC, “will either kill me – or learn to be obedient”, and, it seems, a golden gun.

He’s also a personal friend of fellow boxer and tiger owner Mike Tyson. Perhaps they trade grooming tips.


Ah Mobutu, most notable of course is the leopard skin hat, which is really without comparison. A lot of those featured herein will be noted for their headware, but in combination with the florals you have something unique, a kind of badboy William Morris. Add in the 60s obligatoire heavy frame specks and you have nothing short of a gem, well worthy of an opening post. By god did he know it though, tacking on to the refined ‘Mobutu’ ‘Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga’, meaning ‘the all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake’. The arrogance is his one flaw, he should know that the great dictators all went by one name and were happy to leave it that way.