The ANC colours of black, green and gold form the basis of the collection of 19 jackets for men and women. But the green and gold elements have been taken to neon extremes, which look as though they would glow in the dark.
The embellishments include electric green patches for pockets, glowing buttons, neon yellow zips, all topped off with the party’s logo of a wheel, spear and shield.
One design has been described as dayglo snakeskin, one resembles a military bandleader — in bright yellow — while one is shaped like a school blazer.
Despite the variety and the unquestioned effort, local fashion experts are not at all sold on the new-look ANC.
Popular fashion designer Thula Sindi says the jackets have a “members’ only feel” and are only suitable for “much older people”.
“I wouldn’t be caught dead in them. Its all just looks like patchwork,” he says.
“I don’t think anybody younger than 40 would wear that, out of fear of being ridiculed.”
He admits though that merchandising is rarely fashionable.
“For what it is, they are OK. I still wouldn’t be caught dead in one.”
The cheapest of the jackets made from “genuine leather” costs 1 620 rand (US$217) while the most expensive will set an avid ANC supporter back by 1 944 rand (US$267).
Bongiwe Khumalo, a fashion and lifestyle writer for the Sowetan newspaper says the prices may be too steep for most ANC supporters — a majority of whom are poor.
She adds that the “over-use” of colour does nothing for their quality.
“They failed to use colour wisely. This makes the jackets look like they are made from cheap fabric… If something costs an arm and a leg then it must be worth every cent I spend on it,” she says.
Thebe Mabanga, parliamentary correspondent for the Financial Times magazine, is less scathing.
“The presidential design is brilliant,” he says.
But even he adds that one “looks like something from Star Trek”.
He also notes that many South African politicians already have a sharp sense of style and so maybe don’t need such outlandish creations to make a statement.
Leather jackets have always been popular among black South Africans — a sign of style and accomplishment, however minor.
This is especially true of ANC members, known as “comrades” as this is the favoured term of address among party officials.
Jokes would be made about how you know someone is a “comrade” when they show up in a leather jacket whatever the weather or event.
The ANC’s marketing team says the jackets will promote a sense of “identity” in party members.
The jackets are manufactured by a Durban-based company which is affiliated to the ANC’s Progressive Business Forum — an organisation that provides a link between the ANC and businesses.
The range has only been launched this week but the forum’s Daryl Swanepoel says he is happy with the level of sales so far, without giving details.
“We are satisfied with the turnover. We receive daily inquiries,” he says, reports news website, News24.
Thanks to the President No 1 jacket, supporters of Jacob Zuma can now also dress like him.
South Africans first caught a glimpse of the President No 1 in Johannesburg at the ANC’s victory party after the 2009 elections.
Surprisingly for some, this is the most modest of the jackets, with just some cream and olive-green stripes.
A perfect fit perhaps for the president?
A man widely touted as “humble” and “the president of the poor”.
But at the current price, Zuma’s poor may have to settle for the usual branded caps and T-shirts. — BBCOnline.