A good point about the international summit "silly shirt" photo tradition

International summits like APEC or the East Asia Summit have a tradition of having all the leaders in attendance having a photo wearing matching attire, usually a piece of clothing that's considered iconic or culturally important to the host country. Usually these photo opportunities are called the "silly shirt" photos by media.

Twitter user Mike Alsan has raised a very good point about referring these as "silly shirts". In response to a Newshub tweet about the shirt for the East Asia Summit, Mike wrote:

Mike raises a bloody good point here. Even though we might think our leaders look odd in these garments, and often they act a bit awkward while they're wearing them, the garments selected often hold a special and important place in the culture of the host country. 

As such, we really shouldn't be calling them "silly shirts" anymore. As Mike points out, we'd be pretty annoyed if international media made fun of Māori culture while attending a summit here, so we should offer the same respect when attending summits overseas.

What it did make me realise though is if we are going to call any of these summit garments "silly shirts", then we probably need to hold a mirror up to ourselves.

While other countries selected garments that reflected their indigenous cultures, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States didn't. Canada opted for what looks like a waterproof outdoors jacket, New Zealand had a plain black jacket with a fern, Australia had everyone in Driza-Bones, and when in Hawaii the US just left everyone in their business suits.

In retrospect, we were the ones with the silly shirts, having not created something that celebrated our respective indigenous cultures.

Thankfully we'll get a chance to put this right when Auckland hosts APEC in 2021.