North Korea is banning leather coats to prevent its people from imitating Kim Jong Un’s fashion style: report

Kim Jong Un standing at a lectern, wearing a leather jacket.
Kim Jong Un has been spotted wearing leather jackets on multiple occasions. He is pictured here giving a speech at the groundbreaking ceremony for a hospital in Pyongyang in March last year. Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
  • North Korea is banning an unlikely fashion item — leather trench coats.
  • This is because North Korean leader Kim Jong Un doesn’t want his fashion style to be imitated, per a report from Radio Free Asia.
  • Kim was seen sporting leather trench coats on several occasions, including appearances on state television.

North Korea is imposing a ban on leather trench coats to stop ordinary citizens from copying their Supreme Leader’s style, according to Radio Free Asia.

According to the outlet, there has been a blanket ban on young men wearing leather trench coats, with police trawling the streets to seize the jackets from citizens and sellers alike. Citing an unnamed source from within the reclusive country, the news outlet reported that the clampdown started after people began emulating Kim Jong Un’s style. 

“During the military parade at the 8th Party Congress in January of this year, the Highest Dignity and all the high-ranking officials were shown wearing leather coats also,” the source told Radio Free Asia, referring to Kim by an honorific. 

The source added that the leather coats also gained popularity among North Korean women after Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, wore them. 

“Leather coats began to be recognized as a symbol of power,” the source told RFA, adding that this prompted clothing sellers to start importing synthetic leather to copy Kim’s looks.

“Young men protest, saying they bought the coats with their own money and there is no reason to take them away,” the source said.

“The police respond to the complaints, saying that wearing clothes designed to look like the Highest Dignity’s is an ‘impure trend to challenge the authority of the Highest Dignity'” the source added. “They instructed the public not to wear leather coats, because it is part of the party’s directive to decide who can wear them.” 

According to Radio Free Asia, buying real leather in North Korea is extremely expensive, with cowhide coats costing around $US34 ($AU47). Those made from synthetic leather are half the price and sold for around $US16 ($AU22). 

That said, this is still an astronomical sum for regular North Koreans to fork out. South Korean publication JoongAng Daily reported in 2018 that the average North Korean earned around $US4 ($AU6) in basic income. This is supplemented by bonuses, which bring the regular North Korean worker’s annual salary to $US201 ($AU280) — making a real leather jacket a luxury item worth two months’ salary.

Another unnamed source, speaking to Radio Free Asia under anonymity, said that the leather jackets have been popular in North Korea for a while, particularly after South Korean actor Jang Dong-gun wore them in the early 2000s.

“That was when South Korean films began to spread in provincial cities, and the leather jacket worn by the South Korean actor Jang Dong-gun became all the rage and is still in vogue,” said the second source to Radio Free Asia.

“Rich entrepreneurs are able to import the fabric for the coats by placing an order with state-run trading companies who have partially resumed maritime smuggling,” the source added.