Diplomatic Etiquette: Why President Zelenskyy Doesn’t Wear a Tie

(opinion article)

From the beginning of Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Zelenskyy exchanged navy suits and white shirts for khaki jackets, T-shirts and military-styled pants. Since then, this outfit has become a must-have for the Ukrainian President. However, whether it contradicts diplomatic protocols and whether heads of other countries don’t consider it an insult, read on!

The history of diplomatic etiquette dates back to 1818, when special resolutions of the Congresses of Vienna and Aachen came into force. States were using them for almost 150 years, until in 1961 the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations was adopted. Since then, there have been binding basic rules of diplomatic etiquette. Decent looks are no exception.

However, doesn’t this mean that Volodymyr Zelenskyy has broken long-standing traditions by giving up leather shoes in favor of $ 50 sneakers? Actually, no. Because the main thing in the protocol is the principle of courtesy and respect for the state and everything that represents it. Unfortunately, Ukraine today is represented by war, so military-style clothes are absolutely appropriate, but meetings with bread and salt, and girls in wreaths are not. So, there’s no need to say that Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Boris Johnson looked like two beer-buddies, who probably grabbed some booze on Khreshchatyk.

By the way, I want to underline that Volodymyr Zelenskyy doesn’t wear the uniform of the Armed Forces. Some experts believe that in this way the Ukrainian President shows he doesn’t appropriate the achievements of the Ukrainian military. At the same time, his clothes are quite cheap, for example, the sneakers I mentioned above or T-shirts up to $ 20 (meanwhile the Ruler of Russia Mordor showed off a $ 25,000 winter jacket.)

Let’s come back to diplomatic etiquette. The main goal is to perform its functions, namely the peaceful coexistence of states. Outer beauty (suits, ties and blah-blah-blah) is a secondary, if not a tertiary function.

It’s curious that high-ranking officials and representatives of Ukraine can’t dress the way they want. There are whole protocol departments! They’ll tell you what to wear, explain the outfit of the interlocutor and, if it’s necessary, give a rap on your knuckles: ‘No way, forget about this!’ So, there’s no reason to worry about the President. Everything is coordinated on many levels.

We’re now living in the so-called cancel culture period. Maybe, after winning the war, the world will deviate from the established norms and… let’s say, also start wearing T-shirts up to $ 20. We need to capture the new values we have obtained at such a high price.

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