How “Zelensky Green” became “the political identity of a country in resistance”.
From red plumed helmets for the Spartan army, felt hats for the horsemen of the Ottoman Empire, to the ill-fated red trousers of the French army during the First World War. Each army has its own uniform identity, which often carries over from the front to the political sphere. Head of state Vladimir Zelensky, who was in the war for nine months, understood this well. On February 24, the president of Ukraine, whose country was invaded by Russia, wildly changed his wardrobe from the first bomb sirens.
“From the first day of the occupation, she radically changed her clothes and made an important choice that shows her closeness to the population and the situation her people are in,” says Valentina Dimytrova, a teacher of information and communication sciences. University of Lion-3. However, “power is always staged not only through speech, but also through other elements, and clothing plays a very important role in the construction of political discourse,” adds the expert on Ukrainian identities in communication and media. Volodymyr Zelensky, who was elected the head of Ukraine in 2019, was in a suit and had no hair on his face. However, in the collective unconscious, he will remain a budding bearded T-shirt or khaki green hooded president.
“Zelensky’s ‘view’ disrupts the traditional staging of presidential power and thus creates a visual shock that emphasizes the seriousness of Ukraine’s situation in the grip of a bloody war waged by Russia,” Johanna Möhring, the study emphasizes. Fellow of the Center for Advanced Security, Strategic and Integration Studies (Cassis) of the University of Bonn. The Ukrainian president, whose television career has elevated him to the level of a star of the small screen, is very comfortable with media codes and frequently intervenes in social networks and the international political sphere.
“Obviously, his media career was important. Since the beginning of the conflict, he has been the main character of Ukrainian communication,” says historian Fabrice d’Almeida, professor of the French Press Institute. Volodymyr Zelensky’s style has become “a brand representing war” and “is found among other political leaders as well as ordinary citizens, because in Ukraine this military style has become the norm in public space,” Valentina Dymytrova emphasizes. His style has even been copied by Emmanuel Macron, who last March sported a hooded sweater and unshaven beard.
“A short beard that says a lot”
Volodymyr Zelensky’s “view” includes the visual codes of the leader of the rebels against the empire, the “freedom fighter”, the “free” who fights with courage and intelligence, the anti-hero who transcends himself and leads others. Struggle for survival”, explains Johanna Möhring. Far from a technocrat in a suit and tie with a clean shaven face. Because “his short beard says a lot,” emphasizes Fabrice d’Almeida, he sees three messages here: “The military emergency that brings him closer to the image of soldiers who don’t have time to shave, wisdom and maturity, and finally, masculinity.”
The beard “is a style element that marks a short time, it does not have time to do aesthetic treatments like its population, and therefore shares their daily life,” says Valentina Dymytrova, who also recalls the First World War hairiness. For Vladimir Zelensky, this is also a way to keep the “enemy” away. Vladimir Putin, who decided to invade Ukraine, never grew a beard. It is also a strong visual identity for Ukrainians.
From orange to yellow blue to khaki
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, clothes have been used to convey messages. After the occupation, many personalities wore Ukrainian colors of blue and yellow. The Fall Winter 2022-2023 Fashion Week even turned it into colors. Gradually, the style of the president came to the fore. “Zelensky green” has become extremely popular in Ukraine.
“Clothes become a form of a sign of belonging to a country, a nation and a standard for taking a position in a conflict,” Valentina Dimitrova explains, adding that clothes are “an instrument of people’s worship.” soft power Forever for Ukraine”. “Ukraine’s national identity was formed on embroidery,” the expert recalls. During the Orange Revolution in 2004, this color was applied to the clothes of Ukrainians. On the Maidan, “embroidered shirts” returned. Now khaki is “in the history of Ukraine and in the political identity of the country in resistance.” marks a new stage”.
“The suffering of some is the business of others”
With his style, Volodymyr Zelensky has become “a symbol and an icon for which we make t-shirts, posters, paintings,” deciphers Fabrice d’Almeida, vice-president of Paris-II Panthéon-Assas University and the author of the book.History of world propaganda. And as with all icons, his image is caught up in capitalism. In September, the leader intervened in a khaki shirt with the slogan “Fight like Ukrainians” (Fight like Ukrainians). The model is now available everywhere online. T-shirts with Ukrainian emblems, clothes with memorabilia… Ukraine has a lot of products from the war.
This phenomenon is not new. “The military world has a constant influence on fashion and our everyday wear: we wear Ray-Ban sunglasses (aviators), Bomber vests, military boots, tank cannons, camouflage,” says Johanna Möhring. “The market economy both creates a need and responds to the desire to assert oneself through purchase,” explains the doctor of political science, adding that it is even possible to find clothes online. “War is the suffering of some, the work of others,” says Valentina Dymytrova. Because these brands and these entrepreneurs are not paying Ukrainians to face the war. To support Kyiv, you don’t need to buy a “Fight Like Ukrainians” shirt on Etsy, you need to visit the United24 website.