North Korea has banned people from wearing leather trench coats after the fashion item became a favourite of dictatorial ruler Kim Jong-un, it has been claimed.
First worn by Kim in 2019, the coat became popular among the North Korean elite who were keen to show their loyalty to the Supreme Leader and who could afford real leather.
But recently, knock-off imitations have proliferated and fashion police have now been deployed to shut down merchants selling them and take them off people amid fears it cheapens Kim’s look and undermines his authority.
Kim Jong-un has reportedly banned North Koreans from wearing leather trench coats after the item became one of his fashion favourites (pictured wearing it last week).
“[Police] say that wearing clothes designed to look like the Highest Dignity’s is an ‘impure trend to challenge the authority of the Highest Dignity’,” a source told Radio Free Asia, using a common honorific to refer to Kim.
“They instructed the public not to wear leather coats because it is part of the party’s directive to decide who can wear them.”
The outlet said knock-off versions of the coat first began appearing in September this year when unofficial trade between China and North Korea was reopened following a shut-down during the Covid pandemic.
That allowed traders to start acquiring synthetic leather to make the coats from.
Radio Free Asia claimed to have seen an import document from recent months that showed dozens of metres of the material being imported.
Kim first appeared in a leather coat in December 2019, around the time he was negotiating with Donald Trump over North Korea’s nuclear stockpile.
The sartorial styling was noted by South Korean media, which suggested it was indicative of Kim’s desire to break with tradition and forge his own identity.
Until then, he had largely styled himself after his father and grandfather – the founder of North Korea – by wearing Mao-style jackets and horn-rimmed glasses.
The leather coat has made several appearances since – and has even been adopted by his sister, Kim Yo-Jong, and other senior female politicians.
Most recently, Kim was spotted wearing it while on a visit to a newly-built tourist town near the mountainous city of Samjiyon.
The ban on leather coats is also not the first time that North Koreans have had their fashion choices dictated by the top brass.
In 2014, three years after Kim became leader, sources told Radio Free Asia that male students had been instructed to get their hair cut to match the Supreme Leader’s style – which at the time was skin-short on the back and sides with a parting on top.
Then, in 2017, it was reported that North Koreans had been banned from getting their hair cut to look like Kim and were only allowed to choose from 15 approved styles.
All of the cuts feature a short back and sides with hair brushed forward, backwards, or in a side parting.
The requirements mirror a campaign aired on state TV in 2005, which urged citizens to ‘trim our hair in accordance with the Socialist lifestyle’.
Shorter styles were also recommended for women to ‘repel the enemies’ manoeuvres to infiltrate corrupt capitalist ideas and lifestyle’ into North Korea.
The same campaign also urged North Korea’s to keep their clothes modest and to always wear smart shoes.
“No matter how good the clothes, if one does not wear tidy shoes, one’s personality will be downgraded,” ran a column in state newspaper Minju Choson that year.