Elle’s ‘North Korea Chic’ and Other Offensive Cultural Fashion Trends


Elle is under fire for publishing a list by creative director Joe Zee naming “North Korea Chic” as one of the hottest trends for Fall 2013. It’s not the first time fashion has royally screwed up by interpreting another culture’s style of dress as, well, a fashion trend, and it won’t be the last. But people were pissed about it, because that’s what happens when you commend the tailoring skills of a country more frequently associated with nuclear missiles than $425 camouflage pants.

But Elle and Zee aren’t the first to have caused a commotion by trying to make “[insert third world country here] chic” happen. You probably remember when Vogue commissioned a piece praising the glamorous wife of tyrannical Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and you most definitely regret remember watching SJP et al. swan around Abu Dhabi in bedazzled Arabic Chic ensembles. There’s certainly much to be said for “take no prisoners tailoring,” but can camouflage pants really hold a candle to Carrie Bradshaw‘s sexed-up semi-keffiyeh?

And true fashionistas know that rocking a culturally insensitive brand of chic is all about mix-and-match. Your knife-sharp khaki shoulders and your four white Maybachs to ferry you between Arabian palaces. Your cowboy-meets-Coachella ammunition headdress and your RG Mugabe t-shirt. And why not show off your first grade literacy skills in the process?

This alphabet is far from comprehensive, but sure as fashion likes to shock, you can be sure it’ll continue to grow.


A is for Arabic Chic: Some form of offensively bad Arab-inspired headwear stomps the streets every season. But the Arabic Chic fashions as seen in Sex & the City 2 were glitzier, more outrageously expensive, and offensive not just to Arabs but to anyone who paid $12 to see this bedazzled turd of a film.

H is for Hitler Chic: Iconization of former dictators is a trend that hasn’t been lost on Bangkok. Walk through the Thai capital and you’ll see endless stalls of trendy t-shirts emblazoned with the Führer’s face. They’re Affordable Chic too, priced between only $7 and $12 per shirt, and though they’re most popular among teenagers. You can even accessorize with Hitler fried chicken, because you know what trend doesn’t go with Hitler Chic? Free-range chicken farming.

I is for Iraqi Chic: Vogue Italia were so “inspired” by the Iraq war that they created a begrimed-glam spread titled “Make Love, Not War” for their September 2007 issue. If you’re looking to channel Iraqi Chic, remember these keywords: Raw, rapey, and “most nauseatingly tasteless fashion pictures ever.”

L is for Libya Chic: The “rebel look” is a third world take on the classic cowboy. Think rebel Americana, varsity-esque jackets with equally fierce fonts, and hooded jackets. Also, ammunition. Not just for your AK47 but fashioned into ammunition headdresses that are “very Lady Gaga“. And while aviators never go out of style, goggles have a steampunk chic appeal you won’t be able to get enough of. More on this minimal take on the military trend here.

N is for North Korea Chic: “North Korea Chic” is known for its sharp lines, moody khaki hues and “take no prisoners tailoring.” Unlike other variations on the military trend that “stomp the runways every few seasons,” North Korea Chic is “edgier, even dangerous.” It’s totes complimentary to the country’s practice of abducting civilians and holding them captive for decades at a time.

S is for Syrian Chic: The signature look of First Lady of Syria Asma al-Assad symbolizes power, politics and the ability of Vogue to sometimes get it gut-wrenchingly awkwardly wrong — like when, in 2011, they commissioned a piece glamorizing the glamorous wife of tyrannical president Bashar al-Assad. Her thing is “not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment,” while her husband’s is letting tens of thousands of people die. Stomping down the runway along with Syrian Chic is the hilarious hashtag #countriesbyvoguewriters (“Turkey – the name itself sounded fattening“).

Z is for Zimbabwe Chic: A slightly alarming but very dictatorial chic is the trend of young people in Zimbabwe to wear clothing bearing the signature of ”RG Mugabe.” Items in House of Gushungo‘s Spring 2013 collection include is a cap emblazoned “1924″, while T-shirts, starting at $10, umbrellas and other regalia were a big hit at Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party’s last conference. According to The Guardian, the pro-Mugabe range is “not only a fashion statement but an act of rebellion for young urban professionals.” But House of Gungsho is too chic for its own good, with Mugabe himself now seeking profits from the brand.


Related links:
The 7 Most Offensive Fashion Ads of All Time
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Melissa McCarthy Sounds Off On Her Controversial Elle Cover

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