Monday, March 9, 2009
President Ian Khama and the Checked Suit Jacket
There is a curious thing in Botswana. When Festus Mogae was our president he enjoyed wearing what my husband claims is the ‘official suit’. It was navy pinstripe. During President Mogae’s reign, wherever you went navy pinstriped suits seemed to be everywhere. Every serious Motswana man had one. With the ascendancy of Ian Khama to the post of tautona (big lion literally, president otherwise) we have entered the era of the checked suit jacket.
I’ve realised while trawling through the internet that the Big Lion’s checked suit jacket is apparently not allowed to leave the borders of Botswana. Photos on the internet show him in tame, plain navies or blacks with no checks in sight. Perhaps he fears it will get lost. But within the country the checked suit jacket gets a lot of work. It features prominently on BTV newscasts.
The new ‘official suit’ is brown checked on a background of light tan, but variations have sprung up around the country. Background colour, size of checks- this a man can play around with to find his own individual style- but owning a suit with little squares on it is a patriotic must.
For the almost 20 years I’ve been with my husband, I don’t think he has bought a suit without me, and yet in those 20 years of suit shopping, I’ve yet to see a checked suit jacket being sold. They are not in the shops that we go to and we go to many suit shops since my husband is thin but wide shouldered, with basketball player length arms so suit shopping is an excruciating, all day experience. So now the question is- where are Batswana men buying all of these checked suit jackets?
When the President visited Mahalapye last month the kgotla was inundated with checked suit jackets. I knew this was my opportunity to find out where these things come from since many of those checked suit jacket wearers were people I personally knew. As we were leaving, I snatched the nearest, a primary school teacher who lives down the road from us. He was wearing an exact replica of the official Tautona checked suit jacket so I was sure he would have the scoop on where they are bought.
“Nice suit jacket, where did you get it?” I asked innocently.
His eyes narrowed and his head quickly flipped right then left. I thought I heard his heart pounding, his breath definitely quickened. A nervous laugh slipped out and then, “Nice to see you Mma Kubuitsile.” And he was gone at a quick walk, bordering on a sprint.
Well I think it’s clear now. The checked suit jacket store is a secret only privy to a select few and, though opposition troublemaker Robert Molefabangwe seems to be in the clique, sadly, I’m, obviously, not.