If Kim Jong Un's New Year's Day speech managed to warm South Korea, his stylist might deserve the praise. Kim chose to forego his usual navy and black suits and appeared in front of TV cameras in a light grey jacket and tie. The look—including rimmed glasses and slick hair cut above the ears—was more modern than usual for the North Korean leader, who spoke of melting "frozen North-South relations." But it was probably a political, rather than a personal, choice. With the New York Times noting South Korea is "known for its attention to outward appearances," Reuters reports the look "was likely carefully calculated to project a softer, more relaxed image to go with his surprise offer for talks with Seoul."
"The change from the previous dark Maoist suits to a softer toned grey Western-style suit likely aimed to underpin peace," says the South Korean-run Korea Institute for National Unification. A leadership and image consultant adds that clients in less-than-ideal situations are often advised to wear grey or white in an attempt to deflect negative attention. Kim's speaking style might've also helped his message. Once a shaky talker, Kim spoke clearly, barely looking at his notes, per Reuters. It was a showing of confidence perhaps derived from what analysts say was a resemblance to his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, who sometimes wore Western suits. Kim, however, is "the same ruthless SOB as his father," Kim Jong Il, who favored drab Mao-style suits, analyst Robert Kelly tells the Times.