Mao-style suits fading away in China

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

"Mao suits" on verge of disappearing from China

The famous "Mao suit", prominently worn by Chinese leaders in the decades following that country's 1949 revolution, is on the verge of disappearing from China, as the fashion-conscious younger generation shuns the previously common style in favor of the latest apparel offered by modern designers.

China's President Hu Jintao was last seen in a green Mao suit while visiting a military base during the Chinese New Year.

During the recent National People's Congress gathering in Beijing, Sun Fucai, manager of the official Red Capital clothing store, reported that Mao suits made up only five percent of his sales.

One shopkeeper near Beijing, Hu Bixing, sells Mao suits, but hasn't worn his own Mao suit for about ten years. He says they are "...so out of fashion."

In China, the style of dress is still worn by older urban dwellers, and many farmers still wear the hat which typically accompanies the suit, called a "Liberation" cap.

The Mao suit has a long history in China, going back to 1912, when it became known as a "Zhongshan suit", because Sun Yat-sen, or Sun Zhongshan as he is more commonly known in Chinese, popularized the style as the president of the Republic of China. It was later made famous by the communist Mao Zedong during his reign as the leader of China.

One Mao suit owner remembers purchasing what for him was a very expensive version of the suit when it was more popular several decades ago.

"I haven't worn it in 20 years," said government-employed driver Zhang Xiaotong. "If I put it on today people would look at me like I was a bit odd."

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