Stylish Statesmen and Debonair Dictators: The Best Dressed Heads of State

The imminent removal from power of Colonel Mummar Gaddafi will bring to an end the colourful reign of perhaps the most dashing Dictator of his generation.  Swarthy, suave and sophisticated, the Colonel may have been a tyrant but he was always impeccably turned out.

It’s not certain, but his toppling by rebel forces will hopefully have a positive effect on the people of Libya and further stabilise the politics of North Africa and the Middle East as a whole after what has been a tumultuous and turbulent period.

Equally uncertain are what the ramifications will be for the high stakes world of political sartorial elegance. Whilst there are young pretenders, like Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan, to his crown, who will succeed Gaddafi ‘Best dressed head of state’ is anybody’s guess. The fez’s, the moustache, the medals, the sash – Gaddafi will surely prove a tough act to follow.

As we wait with baited breath for a front runner to emerge here is a look at some of his predecessors, the dapper Dctators and stylish statesmen of yesteryear and a few casual contemporaries.

Rafael Trujillo – Aside from having wonderful sunglasses, a fine pencil moustache and looking a bit like a bond villian played by John Sessions, Rafael Trujillo, nicknamed the Chief, ruled the Dominican Republic both as President and as an unelected Dictator from 1930 until being assisinated in 1961. Trujillo established a cult of personality to maintain power, erecting statues bearing his likeness throughout the island and renaming it’s capital Ciudad Trujillo, however beneath this cult of personality was a bloody underbelly and his regime is thought to have been the most murderous dictatorship of the Americas.

Mobutu – like Gaddafi a fan of head gear, Mobutu who was Dictator of Zaire (now Doctor Congo) for 32 years, was seldom seen without his trademark leopard skin hat. Despite seizing power in a bloodless coup, he was known for his forceful response to political opposition, executing 4 members of his cabinet in a public spectacle witnessed by 50,ooo members of the public. He was also a fiercely African, banning western dress such as the tie and changing his name to Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (“The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake.”). He is perhaps best known for using $10m of his nations finances to host the ‘Rumble In The Jungle’ fight between Mohammed Ali and George Foreman and featured heavily in the documentary about the fight ‘When We Were Kings’.

Hugo Chavez – It takes a man of confidence to wear a red beret, it takes an ever more confident man to combine it with a tracksuit top emblazoned with his countries flag. Hugo Chavez,  President of Venezuala, enemy of America and scourge of international capitalism is that type of man. Despite being democratically elected Chavez also goes in for classic dictator chic in the style of Fidel Castro and can often be spotted sporting military fatigues.

Haile Selassie I – Beloved by Rastafarians for whom he is revered as a Messiah, Haile Selassie was Ethiopia’s Emperor from 1930 until his death in 1974. His political nous and internationalist views enabled Ethiopia to become a charter member of  the UN, whilst his traditional robes and headwear combined with military uniforms, sashes and canes earned him high praise in the fashion stakes.

By Callum West


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