Thursday, October 01, 2009

I had planned to post a cadre of style inspiration photos for Muammar Qaddafi’s first visit to the U.N., but Vanity Fair scooped me. You can see their slide show here.

The Colonel is, hands down, the most stylish head of state there is. He manages to combine Bedouin fantasy with St. Pepper. He manages to look luxurious yet rough and tumble. And he mixes it up. He wears novelty prints that he believes in. Just look at that jaunty Africa print and the silhouette of Africa won like a badge of honor. I like the little caps, the tousled curly hair. He has done what I have always wanted to do. He has created a uniform that is both folkloric and modern, regal yet snappy. Does he have a stylist?, I wonder, or just a tailor who really understands him? And then there’s his equipage. He’s got the air conditioned tent, that you’ve heard of no doubt. But what about the squadron of female bodyguards with AK-47s? I mean, that is how to make an entrance.

There is a documentary about Qaddafi's female body guards, made by Rania Ajami in 2004, when Ms. Ajami was 25. Ms. Ajami interviewed the bodyguards, placing them in the larger context of feminism in Libya, has sparked some interesting discussion.

Here the Colonel looks like a rock star and the other guys look like his legal team.

So what can you incorporate from his look? What is your badge of honor? What novelty prints do you believe in? What happens when military and folkloric looks combine?

And no, in case this is not clear, I'm not interested in living under a dictatorship, though there are some stylish dictators out there. I think the cult of personality does a lot to encourage one's sartorial development. And if you are aligned with national sovereignty, then you've definitely gotta include some local indigenous clothing and make it work with camouflage.

As for Qaddafi's speech, it actually seemed pretty reasonable to me, thought I must admit I didn’t listen to the whole thing. I don’t think anyone did, except his translator. Wait, no, I heard some rumor that the translator suffered from nervous exhaustion and someone had to fill in for him there at the end. (However U.N. translating is uber stressful. A friend of mine was a translator there, and says this is not so unusual.) The 5 main points of Qaddafi’s speech have been summarized here.

So what did he say? Here’s what I got out of it. It seems like common knowledge that the U.N. is ineffectual and corrupt, no? That’s hardly controversial. He said that the big 5 (U.S., Russia, China, UK and France) dominate the U.N. and smaller member states don’t get much of a say. Accurate, right? He also said that the U.N. has been inept at preventing war: especially large rich countries bombing the hell out of small poor countries. Well, yeah. So his renaming the Security Council the Terror Counsel is not such a stretch. Next the Libyan President pointed out that the U.N. was formed before many small countries gained their independence, so the charter did not consider their needs. Just the facts there, Ma’am. The Iraqi War did not have U.N. backing so his calling for an investigation seems reasonable. He also called for Israel and Palestine to remain one country. I was kind of a two-state-solution person, but I’ve heard this one-state-idea floated about. Again, not controversial.

What else? He would like the U.N. moved to Libya. I say, why not? Tripoli could probably use the tourism, and it could help with development and job creation there. It’s more centrally located for diplomats coming from Asia. The meeting of the General Assembly would no longer cause a traffic snarl in midtown Manhattan. Tripoli looks beautiful. Smack dab on the Mediterranean, everyone could go for a swim in the afternoons. (As for the old U.N., some intrepid New York developers could turn that Mid Century Modernist U.N. complex into some gorgeous condos. Maybe the General Assembly room could be a concert hall. I’ll bet the acoustics are good. Or roller rink? That would be fun. Oh, the possibilities.) And in conclusion, Qaddafi likes Obama. Well, I think that’s nice, though his encomium is hardly going to do Barrack any good at this point.

If the Colonel had kept within his 15 allotted minutes, it might have gone over better. But on the other hand, talking for over an hour and tearing up the U.N. charter has garnered high altitude publicity. The kind you couldn’t get if you tried to buy it. But unfortunately wackiness undermines credibility. Trust me, I know from experience.

Extra credit question: what pin would Madeline wear to meet with Muammar? And what novelty print would he wear?



Blogger midafternoonsnack said...

Makes me think of that book Dictator Style. Albright and Quaddafi? A political fashion-stravaganza! Maybe they will go pin-o e pin-o, vintage bees versus military accolades mounted on an index-card sized badge.

10:48 AM  
Blogger samsara said...

Oooh, I'd love an Albright v. Qaddafi fashion throw-down! I love the way you think, Ms. MidAfternoon!
I should indeed check out Dictator Style, thanks for the link! I had thought it was more about interior design. But marble and gold interiors with life size portraits can be fun too!

9:48 AM  
Blogger midafternoonsnack said...

Just saw this on French news and couldn't help but remember your post:

Dictators as style icons? Quaddafi, okay, but something about Dear Leader leaves me speechless!

10:41 AM  

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