Is Xi Jinping a hypebeast?
Obviously asking the question “is Xi Jinping a hypebeast?”, is incredibly ironic when Xi’s campaign has tried to simultaneously reinvigorate fascist-communism and capitalism at the same time. Apart from being General Secretary of the Communist Party, President of the People’s Republic of China, Chairman of the Military Commission, and a devastating ultra-conservative force, Xi Jinping is also known for his style. More precisely, Jinping has revived the “Mao” suit, or worker’s jacket. I have also noticed an increase in worker’s jackets and mao-style jackets in almost all fashion networks. Whether this increase in popularity within the fashion market is purely an aesthetic trend or possibly a politically-charged occurrence is up for debate.
The jacket originated as, you guessed it, a worker’s jacket. Carpenters, welders, bakers, iron workers, artists, or essentially any man that works with their hands in the late 19th century and early 20th century, wore a ‘worker’s jacket’ or ‘chore jacket’. The ultimate utilitarian fashion piece; the jacket was appropriated by fascist-communist movements. The jacket was famously worn by the likes of Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin as an anti-royalist and/or anti-western statement piece. In both Russia and China the jacket was adopted because it apparently resembled the humble aesthetic of the working man. So calling Xi Jinping a hypebeast might not be too far off, when he in fact knows the power and history of the garment. But ironically enough the jacket became an indication of class in Russia and China. Your class dictated the quality of the jacket. Itchy virgin wool, for the lower classes, or fine yarn for the higher classes. The number of pockets was also a indication of class, the more pockets you had the high up you were. So in fact Is Xi Jinping a hypebeast? might not be such a thoughtless question…
The look was quickly adopted by leaders like Ho Chi Minh, Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un.
The look was also taken to personify evil in famous american and european spy films. Dr. No and Blofeld (old and new) from the James Bond franchise and, of course, Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers franchise.
The look has slightly lost its “villain” aesthetic. For some the look is now more of a political statement for some leaders. (Alternate collars but similar silhouettes are popular as well.)
Is Xi Jinping a hypebeast? Recently, Jinping is known to have revived the aesthetic in his home country.
The suit was also in the spotlight when world leaders wore the jacket at a Chinese summit. Ex-President Barack Obama, Ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper, President Vladimir Putin, President Xi JinPing, and several other world leaders wore the jacket.
The worker’s jacket is being seen all over the fashion realm, as it once was in Russia and China, as an alternative to the obvious traditional suit jacket and jean jacket. Whether or not they have the significance that it once held is debatable.
Has the hypebeast of today circumvented the fascist-communist ideals to reach the pre-“modern” ideals the jacket once held? (See Art Nouveau, Arts & Craft Movement, etc). To say whether the clothing of the fashion-forward members of society truly reflect the political views they hold is also up for debate. We could, in fact, say that the hypebeasts of today lack a sophisticated historical vocabulary. The thrill of the trend and nothing else?
Many contemporary versions of these jackets are still in a traditional indigo cotton dye. Interestingly enough, indigo is actually one of the most meaning-charged colors in history. We think of indigo as being traditionally Japanese because of its extensive use by modern Japanese denim companies but it is in fact a color that has been widely used across all continents and cultures. In 2009, a dyed fabric was found in Peru that dates back 6,000 years.
35 barrels of indigo were in the ship Reprisal, along with Benjamin Franklin, on his way to beg the French to fund the American Revolutionary War. In the Edo Period of Japan, silk was forbidden and it was hard to dye cotton with anything other than indigo. Large communal dye pits littered ancient cities in Nigeria and other parts of North-Western Africa. Throughout the Sahara, indigo dye signaled wealth. During the British Raj, peasants in Bengal revolted against the British and the East India Company for unfair treatment, in the Indigo Revolt.
To be completely honest I had seen the jacket in countless historical documentaries, films and photographs, but none of them had such a resounding effect as Bill Cunningham. A source of immense positivity and hard work Bill Cunningham, represents the post-modern idealism that the jacket originally held.
“The wider world that perceives fashion as sometimes a frivolity that should be done away with in the face of social upheavalsand problems that are enormous […] in point of fact it’s the armor to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you could do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization.”
– Bill Cunningham.