NPR logo Castro: The Man and His Clothes

Castro: The Man and His Clothes

Fidel Castro now. (In an image from state-owned Cubana Television, showing a picture taken by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in January.) TV Cubana/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
TV Cubana/AFP/Getty Images

Re: Fidel Castro stepping down from power after nearly 50 years: First, let me congratulate the U.S. government. To all the naysayers who thought the slow, inexorable, decades-long grind of the economic embargo against Cuba would never work, I say: Mission Accomplished. And, to Raul Castro, if you think you've got an iron grip on things, I say to you: Get your calendar out. Your years are numbered.

But I will say this: Is it possible that not all the credit can go to the embargo?

In watching the endless archival footage of Castro played and replayed on cable TV, one thing stood out to me. Castro then/Castro now.

Castro then: a cigar-chomping El Jefe in military fatigues, ready to fight any brushfire war anywhere.

Castro now: an old guy wearing a track suit. Seriously, is that the gear of the dictator of a throwback Cold War-era satellite nation, or your grandpa going out to catch the early-bird special at Denny's? I saw Castro in that getup and it was obvious he was done.

So, is it really possible that if clothes make the man, they can undo him as well?

Wither Pervez Musharraf. When he was in his military duds, there was no doubt the dude was the iron-fisted strong man who led a bloodless coup to "save" his country. Then he "retired" from the military, swapped his soldier greens for business blue and got his ash can kicked in Pakistan's recent parliamentary elections.

Note to dictators: Ditch your tailor; stick with the scrambled eggs and chest decorations.

Which is a good idea, even if you're not in the military.

Besides the fact that he's loopy, can you really take Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seriously in that anti-Western Western suit he wears? Kind of reminds me of the guy who shows up to an ultra-fancy restaurant just wearing a shirt and is forced into wearing the joint's one, ill-fitting jacket. In my Mr. Blackwell-esque opinion, Ahmadinejad would do much better in some official Mullah-wear that just screams "yes, I will dirty bomb you" the minute you set your peepers on him.

Speaking of Ahmadinejad, remember way back when Barack Obama was only super-popular instead of Jesus-popular? He used to go around sporting an open collar, and CNN infamously ran a piece saying the look was eerily similar to Ahmadinejad's casual Islamofascist style. Well, Obama got regular with some neck wear, and the rest is almost history.

What the wrong clothes undo, the right threads will redo as well.