When talking about the outfits of dictators, what come in one’s mind might be Hitler’s mustache, the fluffy hair style of Gaddafi and Kim Jong-il and the most popular item – sunglasses. Many dictators are fans of sunglasses in public; the comedy “The Dictator” starring Sache Baron Cohen strengthened this stereotyped image. However, why do those dictators always wear sunglasses?
Sunglasses protect eyes from UV rays of sunlight and are also a kind of trendy accessories. Nonetheless, chasing the fashion might not be the top choice of dictators.
The origin of sunglasses can be traced back to 12th century in China, but only law enforcement officers wear them for shading eyes while listening to the confession in order to hide their expressions and maintain a fair public image.
In the 18th and the 19th century in the U.K., the men of middle class well dressed were fond of hand-held single lens sunglasses which helped them to hide their emotions. The historian Vanessa Brown explained in her book Cool Shades, which analyzes the history of sunglasses, that the men at that time used this glass to show their calm and seriousness.
According to a study released on the Psychological Science in 2010, the function of sunglasses to hide emotions impacts on wearers’ behaviors. The researchers from University of Toronto found out that the pedestrians with sunglasses have less chance to donate to beggars on the street, and the study indicated that the function of sunglasses to hide the identity and expressions encourages immoral behaviors in another way.
The researchers believe that’s the reason why those dictators wear sunglasses. Sunglasses help to hide emotions and gaze in front of the public, preventing people from having an insight into their thoughts and keeping dictators as a unreachable status.
In addition to Gaddafi and Kim Jong-il, Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, who stepped down last year because of a coup, was known for having a variety of wire-rimmed glasses and sunglasses. The Russian president Putin, who has been criticized for becoming increasingly dictatorial, has worn sunglasses in public events for many times.
On contrast, in countries with a more complete democratic political system, leaders are generally less likely to wear sunglasses in public. The PR consultant Parker Geiger explained during the interview with BBC: “If there is no eye contact, how can you build mutual trust? ‘The eyes are the soul’s window.’ Sunglasses are a barrier between the leader and the public. If I can’t see your soul, how can I trust you?”
However, the function of sunglasses to hide emotions and gaze is particularly beneficial for some professions. For instance, for policemen, body guards and agents, sunglasses help them observe the surrounding environment anytime, and hide their fear.
The role of sunglasses is indeed not limited to eye protection. They can be used as a tool for hiding identity and emotions, and become one of symbols of dictatorship.