— September 7, 2010—
David Hellqvist tries to make sense of the sartorial
choices of World Leaders in his column The Spin
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva Illustration by Owain Thomas
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva: don’t you just want to snuggle him? And they call him Lula! Politicians aren’t meant to be cuddly, they’re supposed to look like Dick Cheney and have steely, unforgiving names like Helmut Kohl. No wonder Brazil has re-elected Da Silva twice as its president since he took power in 2002. Riding on the same wave of unquestioning goodwill as Chavez in Venezuela and the Kirchners in Argentina, Lula has even had his electability confirmed by POTUS Barack Obama, who famously pointed at him during the April 2009 G20 meeting in London and said, "That's my man right there – the most popular politician on earth."
I suppose Obama, too, was referring to the general cuteness and pleasantness of Lula’s facial features. He’s got kind eyes to start with, and a friendly smile. But it’s the silver-grey beard that ticks the last box. Doesn’t he remind you of your grandpa? Or is it just mine he looks like? It doesn’t matter who you think of, you just want to feed him Werther’s Orginals…
Like many of his leftwing comrades in South America (all hail Fidel Castro), Lula has been in for a fair amount of criticism. Throughout his presidency, corruption charges have been hurled at the government. During the 2005 Mensalão scandal, the attorney general pressed charges against 40 Brazilian politicians, but nothing was ever been pinned on Lula. His popularity has gained him – aside from Obama’s admiration and utterly ridiculous commentary – several awards, including the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit. For some reason.
Unlike his fellow Socialists, Lula does not subscribe to the leftwing uniform of Chavez (red) and the Castro brothers (khaki). The tone is sombre, the suits dark. The only real colour that Lula allows himself is the yellow Brazilian football shirt he is sometimes seen waving. Finally, a politician who knows how to play his best asset in order to win the game…
Owain Thomas is a freelance illustrator who works in the area of illustrative journalism. He has been commissioned in The Guardian Newspaper as well as magazines and books such as Arc Magazine, Amelia's Magazine, Notes from the Underground, Indian journalists and Filament Publishers
David Hellqvist is the Commissioning Editor of Dazed Digital, a freelance contributor to Men’s Vogue and GQ in China, AnOther Man, ZOO and i-D Magazines. He also writes the blog Fashion in Politics