Regardless of your opinion on North Korea, you’ve got to admit they produce some pretty unique suits. So what exactly is a North Korean suit and how do I get my hands on one?
Originally known as the “Mao” suit as it was made famous by the Chinese leader himself in the 1940s. In recent years the attire has become synonymous with North Korean leaders.
North Korean founder and Eternal President Kim Il Sung had more of a penchant for a western suit and tie, whereas leader Kim Jong Il seemed to prefer his trademark khaki jumpsuit.
The Mao or now Kim suit is now best known as the chosen suit of current leader Kim Jung Un.
If you have followed the news or have any interest in North Korea you probably already know what a North Korean suit is, but did you know that there were several types?
What kind of suits are there?
There are three main types of North Korean suit.
There’s the looser fitting summer suit than can be long or short sleeved with a V neck. It’s usually worn with a white under t-shirt so the jacket can be removed easily if it gets too hot.
Then there’s a thicker suit with a nice inner lining & pleats that is buttoned up to the neck. This one is made of quality stuff and is on the pricier side.
Finally you have the khaki zipped jump suit made of stretch fabric. The kind adorned by Leader Kim Jong Il.
How do I get one?
The only way to get one is to actually travel to North Korea. There are several places around the country where you can acquire a suit. The popular and easiest places being in hotels such as the Koryo, Yanggakdo and Changwangsan in Pyongyang. Chances are you’ll stay in one of these hotels.
They can also easily be got off the rack in the Kwanbok or Rason markets but if you really want a quality one then you have to go tailor made.
How to get one at the Yangakkdo International Hotel;
They take a few days to make so be sure to let your tour leader know straight away that you want to get one made. On your first night bring a local guide with you (to translate) to the 3rd floor and you’ll spot the tailors room. There’s some samples on the rack, try them on for style and size. You can also choose what inner lining, pleating, pockets you want as well as the colour – olive, dark navy, black, grey are the current fashion.
The kind and downright flirtatious lady will then take you to a changing room to take your measurements.
Make sure to haggle the price, put down your $50 deposit and come back the next day for a first fitting.
The next day she’ll have the bones of the suit ready for you to try on. Suggest any changes you wish to make and then make another appointment for the next day.
Return in a day or two and the suit will be finished and ready to try on. This is your last chance to suggest any changes.
How much are they?
They can range from $100 – $180 USD depending on the fabric and style. Do make sure you haggle though, the tailor expects and enjoys it!
Tell her Rocky Road Travel sent you and you’ll get a bigger discount 😉
After you pick it up, wear it to your hearts content as you pose for photos in front of the Mansudae Grand Monument and Kim Il Sung Square.
Get your hands on any number of souvenir pins for only $1 at the foreign language bookshop.
Unfortunately pins with portraits of the leaders are not given to tourists so you’ll make to with a North Korean flag pin instead.
Also grab a Korean revolutionary hat from the DMZ gift-shop to complete your new look. Now you’re ready to step back into the office on casual Fridays.
What about for the ladies?
Ladies can also get North Korean suits tailor made but it’s more popular to get a Choson-ot 조선옷 made instead although this is a more formal dress.
Typically North Korean ladies dress smart casual with trendy raised heel shoes, knee length skirt and colourful blouses.