What President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un’s Singapore Summit Outfits Tell Us
Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un finally had their historic summit in Singapore, where Trump made history by becoming the first sitting president to meet with a North Korean leader. Plenty of interesting things happened at the summit and gave us a glimpse inside the minds of the American president and the North Korean dictator. Even the outfits that the two leaders showed up in revealed plenty about their intentions and their personalities, too.
Read on to discover the biggest revelations made by what Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un chose to wear to the historic summit.
7. Kim Jong Un wants to maintain North Korea’s socialist identity
- The biggest clue: His suit
Kim Jong Un almost always wears the same kind of suit. Racked reports that Kim’s signature long black jacket with a short, stiff collar is called a Mao suit, after Mao Zedong, who popularized the style and linked it irrevocably to communism. Kim isn’t the only communist leader who wears the style today. But he seems to wear it to link his own image to his grandfather’s.
Instead of opting for the western suit he’s worn on some occasions, Kim stuck with the Mao suit for his summit with Trump. USA Today reports that Kim’s choice of suit “indicates he wants to maintain his country’s socialist identity though he’s now pushing to improve ties with the outside world.” And as Racked reported of another recent occasion when Kim wore the Mao suit, “He was making it clear that North Korea has its own distinctive identity.”
6. But Kim wants to step out of the shadow of his predecessors
- Telltale sign: His lack of badges
All North Koreans — Kim Jong Un included — are supposed to wear lapel pins with the images of Kim’s late father and grandfather. But as USA Today reports, Kim has recently appeared without the obligatory pins. And he also left them behind when he appeared with Donald Trump at the summit in Singapore.
As you might guess, the omission definitely means something. USA Today explains, “Analysts say Kim’s no-badge appearance may reflect his push to open a new era by staying out of the shadows of his predecessors.”
5. Donald Trump was OK giving North Korea a PR win
- Dead giveaway: His tie
If the entire notion of a face-to-face meeting with Kim Jong Un didn’t already send the message loud and clear, Donald Trump seemed to use his accessories to show that he felt just fine about giving North Korea a major PR win. The president wore his standard navy blue suit and cherry red tie, with a small American flag pin on his lapel.
That sounds innocuous enough. But as Racked reports, “The look was very much of a piece with the alternating American and North Korean flags that provided the backdrop for Trump and Kim’s joint photo op, a controversial display that could be construed as a big PR win for Pyongyang.” The row of U.S. and North Korean flags side-by-side at the summit seemed to cast the U.S. and North Korea as peers, Quartz reports, already a problematic visual.
4. Trump also doesn’t care to conform to suiting standards
- The biggest clue: The wrinkles in his suit
Racked points out that it’s unlikely that Donald Trump was trying to send a particular message with the way he styled his suit for the summit. But that communicates something about him, too. So the wrinkles in his suit and the crooked knot in his tie actually reveal something about him and the way he approached the historic summit. (Such as how he said that he didn’t have to prepare much for his meeting with Kim Jong Un.)
“A perfectly pressed suit would have signaled some kind of deference for the occasion, and that’s not Trump’s game,” Racked explains. “He doesn’t conform with suiting standards and he doesn’t adhere to diplomatic norms — or to presidential norms generally. A slightly off-kilter suit is classic Trump.”
3. Kim Jong Un’s eyesight may be deteriorating
- Dead giveaway: His glasses
The New York Times reports that “unscripted moments” stole the show at the summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. One example? Kim entered the hotel where the summit was held first. “Although he is revered as a near deity at home, he is still less than half Mr. Trump’s age, and in Korean culture, respect comes with age,” the Times notes. “The person who enters a site last is also the one with the higher status.”
Despite his youth as compared to Trump, Kim was the only one of the pair wearing glasses. USA Today reports that Kim often wears horn-rimmed glasses, leading South Korean media to speculate that “Kim’s sight may have deteriorated due to diabetes caused by obesity and that he’s likely short-sighted.”
2. Trump thought he looked better than Kim
- Telltale sign: His wrinkled suit — and his comment to photographers
Another potential explanation for Donald Trump’s choice to skip pressing his suit or double-checking his tie? He probably thought that he would look better — or at least photograph better — than Kim Jong Un, despite the wrinkles. As USA Today reports, Trump made an apparent fat joke at Kim’s expense when he asked photographers snapping pictures of the two leaders, “Getting a good picture, everybody? So we look nice and handsome and thin and perfect?”
1. Kim Jong Un is self-conscious about his height
- Dead giveaway: His shoes
Donald Trump reportedly measures up at 6 feet 3 inches tall, while Kim Jong Un reaches a more modest 5 feet 7 inches. But you would have never guessed that by looking at official photographs of the two leaders, in which Kim looks suspiciously tall. If you believe the rumors, Kim was wearing lifts in his shoes to get some extra height.
GQ reports that Kim “apparently felt insecure enough about [the height] disparity that he had some poor North Korean shoemaker make him a special pair of laceless dress shoes with built-in height inserts.” But as the publication concedes, it’s well-known that Trump takes body language seriously. So “being able to meet Trump’s eye-line was probably a well-calculated move by the North Koreans.”
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