How important is fashion in politics? Recall the 2000 presidential campaign when Al Gore drew widespread mockery for his strategic decision to wear "earth tones," and then a few months later lost the presidency to George W. Bush by 537 votes. A few thousand miles away, a fashion misstep may be contributing to the derailing of another head of state. Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, at an event he was hosting in an effort to reverse his abysmal 24% approval rating, wore a shirt so hideous it has drawn an international backlash.
- How The Shirt Explains Hatoyama's Unpopularity CNN's Kyung Lah writes, "When Hatoyama recently opened the doors of his official residence to serve Japanese barbeque to ordinary voters for an event called the 'Real Hato Café,' his earnest effort to talk to ordinary citizens didn't grab the attention of critic Don Konishi -- but his choice of clothing did. The critic wrote a public condemnation about the shirt in a national magazine and warned the country that the multi-colored get-up represented what the poll numbers already show: Hatoyama is out of touch." Konishi wrote:
This shirt comes from the '80s or '90s. His ideas and philosophy are old. Japan is facing a crisis and we can't overcome it with a prime minister like this. ... A fashion designer like me can wear this, but not the leader of Japan.
- Hatoyama's Political Party 'Is Over' Japanese fashion critic Don Konishi kept it up in TV and print commentary, gathered and translated by the AFP. "Is anyone able to stop him wearing such a thing? ... It's too old. It's out of date. He doesn't have his own style. ... It seems the [Democratic Party of Japan] is over with this shirt."
- Like a Gay Walker Texas Ranger The Daily Caller's S.E. Cupp gushes, "It’s true, the shirt is AMAZING—I am hypnotized by it. It’s like something Walker, Texas Ranger would have worn to a gay bar in 1994."
- His Downward Slide Continues Gawker's Jeff Neumann says the shirt "could ruin [his] career." He writes, "Japan's embattled Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, sitting on a 24% approval rating at home, may have done himself in by wearing a multi-colored plaid shirt that has pissed off the entire country. ... Hatoyama recently hosted a cookout for everyday voters, which he dubbed 'Real Hato Café,' in an effort to reach out to some of the people who hate him. But when he showed up wearing this shirt, people went crazy."
- It's His Crazy Wife's Fault So concludes Japanese culture blogger Sarah Noorbakhsh. "Hatoyama, whose wife garnered almost more attention than he did during the election last year with her 'Venus' and 'eating the sun' statements, has always dressed a little unusually–though we have to wonder if Miyuki is the one choosing his clothes. The madness seemed to surface little-by-little, starting with Yukio’s gothy shirt during a Fuji TV visit to the Hatoyama residence in July of last year." Foreign Policy's Joshua Keating concurs, "Why do I get the feeling his wife Miyuki picked it out for him."
- This Is Far From Japan's Craziest Clothing Best Week Ever's Sarah Walker counters with the "rice bra," recently unveiled in Japan, which in addition to being ostensibly wearable is filled with real soil and rice seeds. Walker writes, "Point being, Japan, you can get over a shirt on your PM that I would wear. I would never be your PM, nor would you want me to be, but do you see what I mean? When he’s wearing the rice bra, then get back to me."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.