Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama is using his colourful and daring fashion sense to send a distinct message about modern Albania to Europe, experts believe.
By Fatjona Mejdini
Sartorial imagination is a well-known trait of Albania’s Prime Minister, Edi Rama, who gained a reputation for stepping out in style after becoming Minister of Culture back in 1998.
Only a year after Albania had emerged from a traumatic period of unrest, Minister Rama – standing 6ft 6in [1.98m] tall – presented himself to the public in baggy pants and red and yellow socks.
Youngsters especially took an immediate interest in him, partly because of his unusual background as a painter and basketballer.
In his clothing, as well as on canvass, he liked to mix strong colours, creating a unique style that has undoubtedly helped to propel him up the political ladder.
As Mayor of Tirana for 11 years, his artistic persona had a strong impact on the changes he made to the city, whose buildings became famous around the world for makeovers in bright pastel colours.
Belina Budini, a scholar in political communications, called his style “neo-populist” in her 2009 book, “Edi Rama, a pop star politician”, saying it confirmed his leadership in the eyes of public opinion.
However, many suspected that, having been elected Prime Minister, Rama would have to tone down the colours and adopt a more modest clothing style.
Clearly, they were wrong, Instead, he just took it another level.
On Wednesday, for example, participating in the Western Balkan summit in Trieste, alongside with leaders from Balkan and EU, Rama combined his formal suit with white Addidas sneakers.
The striped sneakers were there again for a bilateral meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and for meetings with other high members of EU institutions and European governments.
This was no one-off, either. On May 24, at a meeting of Balkan leaders with the Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, he was spotted wearing a stamped T-shirt and sporty pants and shoes.
Irena Myzeqari, a lecturer at the European University of Tirana, told BIRN that Rama sees traditional political attire as boring because it does not communicate anything new.
“Scholars and researchers into communications might share many criticisms against him, but when referring to creativity and a ‘natural’ sense of owning the place, Rama is incomparable to anyone else,” she said.
She believes that Rama is also sending a subtle political message with his attire, as he did during the campaign for the June 25 general election in Albania.
“Printed T-shirts with red roses and black trousers were used to deliver a simple message: I am casual, I am one of you, and we are in a family; a family where love and trust are already settled and there is no need for formal ties in black suits,” Myzeqari said.
She also said his use of casual attire in European halls of power is not a result of random selection, but a well-thought-out strategy designed to promote an image of Albanian confidence.
When it comes to EU membership, she opined, “we are in the waiting room, of course, but we are doing whatever it takes to be in the living room. And, in a living room, you can permit yourself to walk barefoot, or in a pair of slippers”.