The Despot Wears Prada: How Qaddafi Will Be Remembered

Eccentric, flamboyant, provocative, these are just some of the terms used to describe Qaddafi in his obituaries.

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Eccentric, flamboyant, provocative: These are just some of the terms used to describe Qaddafi in his obituaries. After the former Libyan ruler's death became official Thursday morning, media outlets released their pre-written musings on Qaddafi's life and death. After leading a coup in 1969, Qaddafi brutally ruled Libya under his totalitarian thumb. But that's not the only thing he'll be remembered for, obit writers have taken some writerly license to contrast Qaddafi's looks and wardrobe with his brutal dictatorship.

Qaddafi's eccentric style and demeanor provide a writers dream juxtaposition to his cruel rule: His personality and wardrobe are crucial to understanding his dictatorship. Obituaries often note the dictator's eccentric style before discussing the bloodshed. Known for his adventurous clothing choices, Reuters points out that he had a "love of comic-opera uniforms." The Economist calls him "robed buffoon, with a surgically smoothed face, a mop of dyed black hair."   His style looked like a "parody of Sixties radical chic — the craggy features, longish hair, the eyes half-hidden behind retro blue-tone shades," writes The Telegraph. And The New York Times adds its own assessment, calling him a "provocative dictator with the wardrobe and looks befitting an aging rock star."

A mention of Qaddafi's looks provides an interesting segue into his rule. Immediately after discussing his rock-star demeanor, in the same graph The Times cites "grisly violence" and "frequent bedlam," contrasting his erratic and eccentric self with an erratic and eccentric regime. In fact, his "comic opera uniforms" provided an odd and alluring "theatrical backdrop for 42 years of bloody repression," continues Reuters. His approach to style mirrored his approach to governing. "Erratic, vain and utterly unpredictable, he always seemed to be enjoying a private joke which no one else could see," continues The Telegraph.

But his threads were even more than a comic backdrop to a tragic reality. "Behind the designer shades his eyes were those of a fox," writes The Economist. "By sheer imposition of the cult of himself, he had held his tribally fractious country together." The designer shades were part of his allure--they're what kept Libya together.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.