betty July 22, 2022

SINGAPORE – The Straits Times looks at what politicians, and the politically related, are up to in this weekly series.

In this edition, we look at how diplomacy is conducted using sneakers, the new deputy prime minister’s tears it up on TikTok, and the growth of one of Singapore’s youngest political parties.

Look out for the latest edition of the series every Friday, and check out past ones here.

Scoring new kicks

In the usual world of diplomatic grip-and-grins, being unshod would be a major faux pas. But not in breezy Jakarta.

When Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Alvin Tan met Indonesian Minister for Tourism and Creative Economy Sandiaga Uno on Monday (July 18), he complimented his Indonesian counterpart on his nice kicks, or shoes.

Mr Sandiaga promptly took them off and offered the shoes, made by an Indonesian brand called NAH Project, as a gift to Mr Tan.

Mr Tan, who is also Minister of State for Trade and Industry, said: “I thought Pak Sandi’s brand new kicks were cool, so he gamely took them off and gave them to me (in addition to a set of Indonesian crafted masks).”

“We are the same size so it’s a great fit,” he said, ending his post with the hashtag #kicksdiplomacy.

In return, Mr Tan presented him with a laptop bag designed in Singapore by special needs artists from The Art Faculty.

Mr Sandiaga also posted on Facebook, saying that the two leaders discussed a number of bilateral cooperation plans in the tourism and creative economy sectors.

“Mr Alvin apparently had a crush on the local ‘NAH Project’ shoes I was wearing,” he quipped. “I immediately took it off and gave it to him as a sign of friendship.”

In a later post, Mr Tan could be seen wearing the sneakers during a meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.

“(The shoes) matched the Singapore-designed socks I was wearing from Freshly Pressed Socks, which featured a motif of our HDB flats,” said Mr Tan, clearly a student of sartorial diplomacy.

NAH Project’s website showed that the sneakers, priced at 425,000 rupiah (S$39), are currently sold out.