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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Odd Man Out at APEC Fashion Show

APJapanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, unlike Putin, ditched his shirt and tie.
BANGKOK, Thailand -- When Asian-Pacific leaders smiled for the cameras Tuesday in specially tailored Thai silk shirts, they were decked out well beyond the means of most people they represent.

The leaders wore the hand-crafted shirts at the ornate Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, where they held summit talks of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

The shirts, valued at about 90,000 baht ($2,200) each, were made by weavers and tailors in a village in northeast Thailand, the country's poorest region. The shirts look a bit like traditional Chinese mandarin wear, with high-neck collars and long sleeves, and come in burgundy, purple, green and blue. They're imprinted with images of flowers and animals.

It took one month for five people working on a loom to create three meters of the special fabric.

It would take much, much longer for the average person in one of the Asia-Pacific economies to get one for themselves.

Most Thais couldn't buy one even if they worked for an entire year and saved every penny -- the nation's average annual income is the equivalent of $1,960. It's about the same situation for Filipinos, Chinese, Russians and Peruvians, also citizens of Asia-Pacific economies.

Others would have to put in an even greater investment to get the shirt.

A typical Indonesian would have to work more than three years. A citizen of Papua New Guinea would have to work more than four. A Vietnamese, who earns about $35 a month, would have to work more than five years.

The richest citizens of APEC nations -- Americans and Japanese -- would have to work for more than three weeks.

A few walked a bit stiffly, but most of the APEC leaders appeared chipper and relaxed in their outfits as they arrived at the throne hall.

"Oh yes, I'm very happy with it," Australian Prime Minister John Howard was overheard saying about his shirt as he chatted with other leaders at the throne hall.

U.S. President George W. Bush held up an arm to compare his shirt with that of another leader. Twice more he looked at the sleeves as he chatted about the shirt.

But somebody apparently forgot to tell President Vladimir Putin that you're not supposed to wear it over a shirt and tie.

Because he did so, Putin couldn't button the top of his Thai shirt, so looked a bit brash and rumpled as he sauntered up the red-carpeted steps of the hall.

Thais who watched the spectacle on television pointed and laughed.

Peru's President Alejandro Toledo, who did button it correctly, said his shirt was not only comfortable, but also a lesson for the world.

"I like it very much," Toledo told reporters at a news conference.

"I think it's a sign of globalization. It's a sign of the needed combination of modernity, technological development and retaining your own cultural identity," he said.

"And I think this is challenge for modern societies. We can talk about a global world. We can talk about a digital era. But ultimately we are part of our world heritage."