Russia's Putin puttin' on the Ritz
Russian President Vladimir Putin is not typically a flashy guy. He tends to dress in conservative colors, is spare with emotion and, despite...
The Baltimore Sun
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin is not typically a flashy guy. He tends to dress in conservative colors, is spare with emotion and, despite his compact frame, gives off a tough-guy look.
From him, it can be said, one knows what to expect.
Which is why it was unusual — a touch unsettling even — to see the former KGB officer striking a jaunty pose in the pages of one of the nation's most popular newspapers, the tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, one recent morning.
There he was, the normally staid and stoic head of state, exercising a bit of fashion freedom by sporting more casual garb — in daring colors, no less.
"Putin Has Changed His Wardrobe," announced the headline, above a full-page inside spread that pictured him in four different outfits.
In May, in the southern Russian resort town of Sochi, even before spring had sprung, Putin showed up in a light beige suede jacket with his favorite black jeans. In steamy Morocco, Putin appeared with no jacket at all in a nearly transparent shirt that showed off his "rippling muscles."
At the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, in July, at an informal dinner with President Bush, Putin went with a suit in a color he has never worn: mustard brown.
And he received members of the East-Asia Economic Caucus last month in yet another light-hued ensemble. His suit pants and jacket were the color of white steel, his broad striped tie, bright blue and red.
"It turned out stylish," the paper fawned, noting that Putin's choice of dark shoes — seemingly incongruous to one who doesn't know better — was safely in line with the current demands of male fashion etiquette.
Trained in the ways of the secret police, Putin knows how to keep a straight face — and, most of the time, he does. His usual dress reflects that sentiment. In a 2002 survey of how the electorate views him, one respondent from the city of Voronezh described the president as "buttoned up" and a "black box."
That's why this new attire makes him seem almost wild.
"What is the cause of this obvious 'liberalization' of Putin's clothes?" Komsomolskaya Pravda wanted to know.
Perhaps, the newspaper suggested, he is feeling more self-confident — a bit of a stretch for a man who tends never to act inferior — and is expressing, through lighter colored suits and jackets, an "inner freedom."
Natalya Turkenich, an image-maker and stylist at the Moscow-based Style Guide agency, which advises well-to-do businessmen, their wives and other clients, had a few words on the president's new look.
"When I noticed these changes for the first time, I thought, aha, he must have an image-maker who whispered into his ear, 'It's not correct to wear dark-colored suits all the time,' " she said.
"I was very pleased to see that he's no longer wearing boring dark suits," she offered. "But he doesn't understand a thing about small details. Nuance in clothes is something he can't comprehend."
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