The Mao jacket and suit was not designed by Mao. In fact, in China, no one calls it the Mao suit. They call it Zhong-Shan suit, named after its original designer Dr. Sun Yat-Sen (Sun Zhong-Shan in proper Madarin pronunciation), the founder of the Kuomingtang (the Nationalist Party) and of the Republic of China in 1912. From now on, the Mao suit here shall be referred to as the Zhong-Shan suit, giving the designer his credit. This was a style that was not significantly worn by boys in the West, but was of course widely worn by boys in China.
The Mao jacket and suit was not designed by Mao. In fact, in China, no one calls it the Mao suit. They call it Zhong-Shan suit, named after its original designer Dr. Sun Yat-Sen (Sun Zhong-Shan in proper Madarin pronunciation), the founder of the Kuomingtang (the Nationalist Party) and of the Republic of China in 1912. From now on, the Mao suit here shall be referred to as the Zhong-Shan suit, giving the designer his credit.
This was a style that was not significantly worn by boys in the West, but was of course widely worn by boys in China. The jacket was of course by men. We are not positive what the conventins were for children wearing it.
The jacket of the Zhong-Shan suit has five buttons. The style of the collar is very much like a shirt collar. It is fastened by a small hook. The jacket has four outside pockets. The larger two on the lower half of the jacket were created to contain documents and other papers. The left upper pocket has a small hole on the top. This is for the pen (unlike the Western suit, the Zhong-Shan suit is not to be unbuttoned unless it is to be taken off, thus pens cannot be put in inner-pockets).
The Zhong-Shan suit became the standard outfit for officials of the Republic of China and its ruling party Kuomingtang (the Nationalist Party). Its plainness and functionality were seen as suitable for ‘the servants of the people’. Its military tint brought the wearer the look of determination and revolutionary fervour. However, few non-state people wore the Zhong-Shan suit. The Western suit remained popular among the middle classes. The Communists, with their earlier co-operation with the Nationalists, adopted the Zhong-Shan suit. This was unchanged despite the break-up between the parties.
After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 led by Mao, Western suit, because of its association with the capitalists, soon gave way to the Zhong-Shan suit as worn by the Communist leaders. The state domination of every single aspect of life
meant that the clothes of the statesmen were introduced to the masses. Mao should be credited for the mass popularity of the Zhong-Shan suit.
The suit is of course most associated with China. With the spread of Communism from China, the Zhong-Shan suit spread to North Korea and Vietnam. They were also worn in the West. We noted a 1965 West German catalog offering a Mao jacket. Criously, I don't believe that they were worn in East Germany. I don't remembering seeing them in America--except on television, but my guess is that a few boys, probably in California wore them.
The civilian Zhong-Shan suit comes mainly in two colours: blue and grey. Blue is the most widespread colour, as it was mostly worn by the common people and lower ranking officials. Grey is mostly reserved for high-ranking officials. White linen Zhong-Shan suit is extremely rare. Chinese statesmen in earlier years of the People’s Republic had worn this type on visits to tropical countries. The green Zhong-Shan suit comes from the army. During the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s and 1970s, these (along with all things
military) became highly fashionable as the army was seen as the guardian of the revolution, unaffected by the upheavals that prevailed among the civilians.
Today, the Zhong-Shan suit has given way to the Western suit. Leaders after Deng (who introduced the reforms beginning in 1979) are almost never seen in Zhong-Shan suits, perhaps because of its association with the confrontational Mao era. Only the Chairman of the Central Military Commission wears dark green Zhong-Shan suit on formal occasions.
The most prestigious Zhong-Shan suits are made by Hong Du in Beijing. It was founded in 1949 by the Communists for making outfits for statesmen. All diplomats and senior officials were clients of Hong Du. It is located on Zheng Yi Road, south-east of Tiananmen Square. (I
had one tailor-made a few months ago. It cost me no more than £150.)
Zhao, Ed. E-mail message, January 22, 2004. Ed has kindly provided the provided the information for this page.
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