World

North Korea Launches Clothing Line That Can Be Eaten to 'Avoid Starvation'

North Korea has released a line of shirts for men that it claims can be eaten to “avoid starvation” if necessary.

Alek Sigley, an Australian graduate student at Kim Il Sung University in the North Korean capital Pyongyang, first reported on the unique fashion trend in a column for news site NK News. His article overviewed a men’s fashion magazine released by the country’s Clothing Research Center. A scan of an interior spread of the magazine featured button-up dress shirts and Sigley translated the Korean text to the left side.

“Clothing made from artificial flannelette fabrics composed of trace elements such as high-grade protein, amino acids, fruit juice, magnesium, iron and calcium, as clothing worn by people engaged in sailing, outdoor exploration and mountain climbing, can be eaten to avoid starvation in the event that food has run out,” the copy read. On the other side of spread, another caption said: “Clothing that dissolves in water.”

The magazine is titled Men’s Clothing: Shape and Design Materials. It also cites a quote from modern-day North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung, for its tagline: “Men also ought to go about wearing varied clothing in several styles.”

According to Sigley, North Korean men generally dress in a more formal way than in many other countries. He explained that he rarely sees men wearing t-shirts or other informal attire, unless they are playing sports or carrying out physical labor. In addition to the button-up shirts, the magazine features suits, a range of outerwear and ties.

Exaggerated reports have circulated in the past suggesting that North Koreans are all required to dress like their supreme leader, currently Kim Jong Un, with whom President Donald Trump has previously said he has fallen “in love.”

Writing for The New York Times in late 2017, journalist Carol Giacomo pointed out that there are a lot of misconceptions about North Korean fashion.

“It’s easy to think of North Korea as an irredeemably one-dimensional place. Just look at the huge demonstrations that are the most common public image of local life, invariably showing thousands of citizens, some in military garb, some in Korean cultural dress, still others in various uniforms, all performing in lock step,” she wrote. But she pointed out that, after a trip to country, she realized there are a vibrant variety of styles and colors just like in other places around the world.

GettyImages-1077343562 In this photo taken on January 4, attendees shout slogans during a rally in support of a new year's address by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang KIM WON JIN/AFP/Getty Images

Fashion reportedly has had a bit of a resurgence in the country under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, who came to power in 2012 after the death of his father. Although his efforts have been hampered by international sanctions, the North Korean leader has tried to import more luxury goods, according to The Times. His wife has also been seen by many in the country as a sort of style icon.

Still, regulations regarding dress have historically been somewhat stringent in the tightly-controlled society. Song Eun-byul, a North Korean who fled the country, previously told The Guardian that people could be punished for disregarding the rules, although she said the policies have become more relaxed.

“Women can wear trousers inside the city, but they need to be very loosely cut. Before, if I went to the city center, I had to wear a skirt or traditional Korean dress,” she explained.

Join the Discussion