President Obama attended the APEC summit yesterday, as part of the important international exchange of whatever the thing is that happens at this summit. There’s probably something about trade agreements, though it seems to revolve largely around shirts. Lots of matching shirts. I’ve never understood the shirt thing (at conferences and whatnot. I’m pretty clear on the concept of shirts, as an entity). Frat parties to team-building workshops to, apparently, meetings of world-leaders, you gots to have a shirt!
It also touches on an odd element of international diplomacy – the wearing of the native clothes. I get the show of respect to the culture you’re visiting, but generally the visiting dignitary wears the outfit with all the grace and naturalism of a 14-year-old white girl dressed as Tituba for a high school production of The Crucible. So why keep it up? Does it matter that much? “Well, Mr. President, we have a great deal to offer one another, and could have decades of trade, but you refused to wear the poncho we gave you, so instead we are declaring war. Poncho battalion! ATTACK!”
Whatever the reasoning, it seems to be iron-clad. It seems like there’s a few approaches one can take to these situations. There’s the “I’m going to look serious to the point of hostility” approach.
There’s the “They really wear this? Well, that’s just nutty” approach.
The “Jesus, I’m the one of the most powerful people in the world and I have to endure this crap? Fine. Whatever.” Approach.
And finally, the “Hey, we can re-enact our favorite movie scenes!” approach, which I suspect would be mine.
So, good luck, Mr. Obama. Remember, be dignified, be respectful, be courageous, and remember that even if the tag says it won’t shrink, it generally will a little, so you might want to go a size up from what you normally wear.