Trump-Kim summit

From hair to suits: style matters when Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un meet

US and North Korean leaders may not see eye to eye when it comes to politics, but they’re surprisingly aligned in the fashion stakes

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 June, 2018, 5:19pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 June, 2018, 11:29pm

Whether or not the Singapore summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un turns out to be more than just a “get to know plus” meeting, as Trump recently referred to it, one thing is certain: political analysts will scrutinise every single detail of the event, from the moment Kim and Trump land in Singapore to their body language when they first meet and obviously the clothes they wear.

For rarely have there been two world leaders whose peculiar looks have generated as much attention, and internet memes, as Trump and Kim.

Much is at stake in Singapore and you can’t underestimate the historic nature of a meeting of this kind, which is why the two heads of state may pay extra attention to their outfits. Will Kim ditch his customary pin-striped Mao suit for a Western-style suit and tie, as he has done on previous occasions? And will Trump stick to one of his baggy and unflattering Brioni suits, which have become his default uniform?

Why Trump, Abe and Trudeau ditched suits and ties at Asean gala dinner

Ahead of the much-anticipated meeting, it’s worth looking at some sartorial highlights, and faux pas, from Trump and Kim, who may not see eye to eye when it comes to politics but are surprisingly aligned in many matters of style.

Hair situations

Naysayers may disagree but you can’t deny that Trump’s blond hair perfectly complements his burnt orange tan. What really stands out, however, is the hairdo itself. Is there a toupee involved and is the haircut actually a wig? Is the dye job done in the privacy of Trump Tower and the White House or at a swanky Manhattan or Washington barber salon? The wig rumour is definitely a myth as on a slow news day earlier this year, all everyone could talk about was the president’s mane being messed up by strong winds while boarding Air Force One.

Kim’s heavily gelled hair, which is backcombed into a mini bouffant, is a thing to behold. Shaved at the sides and often styled into what has been referred to as a “trapezoid shape”, this is definitely not your average just-got-out-of-bed hairdo and is indeed quite high maintenance. Besides frequent touch-ups, it requires lots and lots of hair products. One wonders how many jars of wax Kim goes through in a month. Trump could find out to break the ice or if they ever need to exchange hair tips, like when Tony Blair and George W. Bush bonded upon discovering their shared love for Colgate toothpaste a few years back.

Suits you fine

Former US president Barack Obama famously said that he always wears the same grey or blue suits as he doesn’t want to waste time making decisions about what to wear when he has so much on his plate. Trump and Kim seem to stick to the same belief, rarely straying from their true-and-tested looks.

The pin-striped Mao suit has become Kim’s signature, a relic from the heydays of his father and grandfather, who both favoured the Chinese Communist Party’s typical attire. Usually in grey or black, the suit is cut quite loose and sometimes accessorised with a pair of spectacles, a red pin commemorating his ancestors and one of Kim’s luxury watches, which he doesn’t shy away from sporting at public events.

Trump is a fan of the navy suit, normally worn with a red tie, the colour of the Republican Party, and an American-flag pin on the left lapel.

The garments that Trump produces under his own label may be made in China and Mexico (so much for Make America Great Again …) but he prefers to wear Made in Italy label Brioni, a favourite of plutocrats and moguls around the world. Although those suits don’t come cheap, Trump definitely needs some style advice as he’s often been found to commit many fashion mistakes: mixing navy and black, sticking his overly long ties to his shirts with adhesive tape, and wearing pants that are too wide legged for his already large frame.

Casual Fridays

It’s not often that the two leaders stray from their usual attire but when they do, it often makes headlines. In 2015 Kim visited a farm in North Korea wearing a summer-appropriate short-sleeved white shirt paired with a straw panama hat while more recently, in January, he gave a New Year’s address clad in a grey Western-style suit that many saw as an attempt to soften his image.

Trump is also not very adventurous with his off-duty looks, which are limited to his weekend golf kit: khaki pants, white polo shirts, often sporting the logo of one of his posh resorts like Mar-a-Lago in Florida, and a red visor or baseball cap, also from one of the Trump golf clubs. Personal branding never stops for Trump, not even on weekends.