When rock n roll star Elvis met US president Richard Nixon in 1970, he showed up in the Oval Office memorably wearing a cape, tight velvet pants with an enormous belt buckle, an open neck shirt and a gold medallion.
Elvis received rave reviews at the time.
Now fast forward to 2013. This time, it’s Chinese director Xu Zheng meeting Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Xu was invited to the meeting last week after a low-budget blockbuster Lost in Thailand he directed and starrted in, successfully attracted tens of thousands of Chinese tourists to Thailand, especially the historic and culturally rich northern city, Chiang Mai.
The meeting itself went well, according to media reports. But when it came to comments about his clothes, Xu was not as lucky as Elvis.
In fact, blunt criticism was directed at Xu after photos of the meeting were posted on China’s social media.
In the photos, Xu was seen wearing turquoise pants and a white shirt-with both sleeves rolled up and the top buttons undone.
Standing next to him was an elegant-looking Yingluck Shinawatra in formal dress.
“You might be a famous director, but will you please learn to be a gentleman and show some respect by taking better care of yourself when meeting the Thai prime minister?” wrote journalist Xu Jingbo on China’s popular social media service Weibo.
Xu Jingbo, who heads Asian News Agency in Japan, criticised Xu Zheng relentlessly.
“You might have won good fortune making the film,” he wrote, “But you failed miserably when it comes to basic social etiquette.”
“I wonder what Yingluck Shinawatra thinks of Chinese men now,” he added.
This Weibo post received 6,000 comments hours later, mostly from Lost in Thailand fans defending Xu.
“Director Xu was apparently wearing simple and comfortable clothes,” one fan wrote, “There was nothing wrong with him just being himself.”
Xu Jingbo disagreed.
In an interview with SCMP.com on Friday, Xu Jingbo argued that the director was not “just representing himself.”
“In such a formal occasion, he was also representing Chinese artists and men,” he said, “It’s improper and rude for him to roll up sleeves and expose his chest like that.”
Xu Jingbo then referred to a recent example of Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan, who had dressed in a traditional Chinese costume to attend the NPPCC session in Beijing.
“A man with taste should know better,” he said. “Be it a suit or traditional dress.”
Although Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations among Westerners, it still adheres to strict rules on dress when it comes to the country's leaders and temples. Thailand's monarchy in particular commands the respect and reverence of the Thai people. When tourists visit the royal palace in Bangkok they are warned that shirt sleeves, whether long or short, cannot be rolled up.
“The Cultural Revolution destroyed the traditional moral values, and it has been followed by a national money-making movement,” he said.
“I hope after this debate, people will start to reflect on our education and behaviour. We need to learn to wear proper clothes to show respect and character. A country cannot become strong simply by its GDP. It also needs tp show the world... the education and calibre of its people,” Xu said.
"I hope this debate will be the beginning of change," Xu added.
Xu Zheng hasn’t responded to Xu Jingbo’s criticism yet.