Monday, Aug. 10, 2009

Communist Chic

He founded a country, promulgated an ideology and fostered a zealous personality cult whose members terrorized all of China, so it's only to be expected that Mao Zedong would start a fashion trend too. During his 30-year reign as China's Chairman and national hero, Mao regularly appeared in a proletarian four-pocket jacket first introduced by Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen as a counterpoint to the Western business suit. By the time of the tumultuous Cultural Revolution, variations on the androgynous green, gray or blue Mao suit were everywhere: it was the uniform of choice for Mao's young followers as they rooted out his supposed capitalist enemies. But after Mao's death in 1976, the look began to fall out of fashion. Almost without exception, today's Chinese leaders wear Western business suits. The style is still popular among older, rural Chinese, however, and it has reappeared in boutiques in Hong Kong and Shanghai — a popularity fueled mostly by a sense of postmodern irony among young urbanites.