Xi Jinping has a varied wardrobe. During a visit to state television in Beijing, the Chinese leader appeared in a navy blue windbreaker jacket, the same suit he wore when meeting farmers inside the country. On a recent tour with the Communist Party leadership at an exhibition on the acronym’s 100 years, the look was a bit more understated – a white shirt, tailored pants, and black shoes.
Its formality increases during the events of the State. At the feast’s grand centenary celebration on Thursday (1), he wore an elegant gray coat, a gala version of the most popular garment among the Chinese in the second half of the 20th century, the Mao tunic – by Mao Tse -tung—, plays with the straight cut and austere appearance that became a symbol of communism when it was popularized by the leader of the Cultural Revolution.
But the versatility of Xi’s costumes, whose wardrobes serve as an inspiration to other party officials, shows more than the precise cut of the tailors specializing in service to the authorities.
According to specialists, this is a double image conveyed by the apex of the acronym in the 21st century: on the one hand, the continuity of the communist heritage, and, on the other hand, of a connected China. in the present tense, “non-monolithic,” in the words of former diplomat Fausto de Godoy, who served in the country between 1994 and 1997.
“Xi is the son of man who opened China to the world [Xi Zhongxun]. His head is modern. He graduated in engineering and political science and is married to one of China’s most important singers. [Peng Liyuan]”, explains Fausto, coordinator of the Center for Asian Studies of the ESPM in São Paulo.” The party wants to have a more modern face. They are no longer a bunch of people in Maoist clothes.
According to him, the behavioral codes of the acronym are hierarchical, so that the way of dressing of the leader ends up influencing the other members, a kind of “dictatorship of the environment on the individual”. At the party’s plenary in October 2020, for example, the vast majority showed up in suits and ties, as did Xi and the senior officials next to them, according to videos from the meeting.
The predominance of more neutral colors in official dress, with black, gray and navy blue underlined, are vestiges of Maoism, explains the former diplomat. When Mao came to power in 1949, he began to appear in public in a straight gray or khaki coat, slightly loose over the body and utilitarian in his appearance. The piece refers to the gaze of Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925), considered the father of modern China.
The four large pockets represent decorum, fairness, honesty and honor, while the three buttons on each sleeve allude to nationalism, law and livelihood, tenets of the Chinese people under Sun, according to one video made by tailor Gao Liming for the CGTN television channel. With a sober presentation and devoid of ornaments, the tunic gives an air of balance and uprightness to the wearer.
Alexandre Uehara, coordinator of the Asia Study Group at USP, says the coat represented a political break with the 19th-century Qing Dynasty, which favored more colorful and ornate costumes. Once adopted by Mao, it was used by both the military and ordinary citizens over the following decades, with little difference in fit between men and women. Thus, the population shows itself faithful to the ideals of the party and transmits abroad the image of a unified China.
Attentive to symbolism, the current party leader began wearing the piece at more formal events. “When Xi wears these clothes these days, he wants to demonstrate the distinction between the Western world and China, which he has proposed to be the world power by 2050,” Uehara said.
The Mao tunic returned to center stage after a period of ostracism, between the 1980s and 1990s, when it was ignored by the party leadership and replaced by the classic Western authorities’ costume – suit and tie -. at the time of the economic opening in the country and the collapse of the socialist model of the Soviet Union. The West was all the rage, and the jacket was an indication of a willingness to belong to this group, bringing a hitherto unseen image of Chinese officials to the world.
Another very popular piece of the evening, the zipped jacket, “the equivalent of a shirt without a tie, formal but not too much”, explains Louise Edwards, professor of Chinese history at the University of New South Wales in Sydney (Australia ), who studied the symbolism of clothing in China. This garment, Xi’s famous navy blue windbreaker, “conveys a sense of closeness to ordinary people, while keeping a distance from Mao-era fashion and politics.”
So ubiquitous, the jacket has become a star on Xinhua, China’s state news agency. “There is no need to be ironed, it is clean and stain resistant,” the text said, adding that as the garment represents “Mr. Efficiency”, it has become the favorite costume of Chinese officials.
The practicality of clothing is followed by women, who wear tailored suits combined with a skirt or pants. But a little more fashion creativity is allowed, as in the case of former Vice Premier Wu Yi, who wore pieces made from fabrics with Chinese motifs.
“There was a great shame in how scruffy and simple Chinese women were compared to first ladies or international officials in the 1980s and 1990s. While men improved the cuts of their suits, there is had an effort to make women more glamorous. and decorative internationally.