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Macron, Zelensky and the face of the leader

At first I dismissed it as a fake, the image was absurd: French President Emmanuel Macron, clutching a document, unshaven face and wearing a hoodie with the logo of CPA 10, an affiliate of the country’s special forces. Surrounded by the classical details and gold ornamentation of the upper rooms of the Elysée Palace, his choice of attire seemed entirely out of the ordinary.

“Zelensky cosplay” was screaming on the internet, as Macron’s legacy debt to the Ukrainian president was made clear. Although my first thoughts on seeing this aberration, captured with a raised eyebrow and smirk, were what Jason Bourne encountered Pink PantherInspector Clouseau.

Rather than fake, the images are part of a growing archive of images by Soazig de la Moissonnière, a former photojournalist who, since 2016, has been the lead photographer for Macron, and is one of several. More and more photographers are being recruited to take candid photos of a politician’s career. First used by JFK, who hired Cecil W Stoughton to photograph him in office, the president’s personal photographer is said to be performing a public service: Pete Souza, for example, captured the moments intimately etched with Barack Obama in the White House, the photographs helped cement his image as a man of principle and compassion.

More recently, however, these spot portraits have become an element in a project that appears to be a monstrous vanity. The images of de la Moissonnière contributed much to the construction of the meme around Macron’s war effort. Another equally remarkable set of images, taken during preparations for the Russian invasion, showing him holding his head in anguish after nervous diplomatic exchanges, were posted by Twitter users the name is #sadMacron.

Six weeks ago a leadership election, As one of the key players in the peace negotiations, Macron has acquired a less polished image. The usual drops of sweat, the sloppiness, the shabby appearance: all these are motifs that owe a great debt to Volodymyr Zelensky. And, perhaps, the Ukrainian people must be touched that the president is a fan-boy of their leader.

But while Macron’s attempts to emulate Zelensky in his expulsion are shameful, they speak to the politics of a wartime leader’s wardrobe. The fact that Macron, with his perfectly slim trousers and pristine white cuffs, has started rolling out sweatshirts speaks to the new desire of civil servants to capture some of the men. Mr. Zelensky “everyone”.

And while world leaders dressed as real people sitting in bomb shelters consolidating their credentials looks funny, the wartime hoodie has become a useful way for politicians to Leaders in this crisis show their sympathy. After all, Putin, who still insists that Russia is engaged in a “special military operation” in Ukraine, wears only the suit. Wearing your paratrooper hoodie at least lets everyone know that there’s a war.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky in a teenage outfit and hoodie instead of armor © President of Ukraine Press Services / AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, Zelensky, in his dusty hairbrushes, has emerged as a modern icon. And apparently, his outfit is not a top priority in his plans, one can only imagine that the former TV star has been a careful student in his wardrobe selection. mine.

An actor whose presidency for many years has co-existed between the worlds of reality and fiction, Zelensky has perfected his public image combined with on-screen evolution: in just two weeks, he can be caught in a pen sketch, the unshaven man with a guy going out for three days always wears a khaki t-shirt and sometimes a zipped hoodie. His taciturn appearance is a constant reminder that he represents an ordinary Ukrainian: without fancy or fancy additions.

More notably, he has denied allegations that he left his capital by walking around Kyiv without wearing any apparent protective measures. To avoid wearing the usual armor one might expect from politicians in a war zone, Zelensky’s choice was an extraordinary bravery. In emphasizing how vulnerable the world saw him, he emerged as the most powerful and charismatic leader in the world.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, centre, has pledged to help Putin and tended to favor Prada shoes © Yelena Afonina / Tass via Reuters

It’s a striking contrast when one considers the guerrilla fights and the gray uniform of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechnya Putin loyalist, who announced last weekend that he would support Russian efforts. The impression of his tough, wild alertness has been somewhat dissipated, however, by the stunning discovery that the man wearing the AW19 season Prada . combat boots cost $1,500. As for the love of God, the vanity of some men is absolutely shocking. I know very little about combat, but I can tell you that trying to run in those giant lugs would be an absolute disaster.

Email Jo at the address jo.ellison@ft.com

According to @ftweekend on Twitter to learn about our latest stories first

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