The notion of homogenous leaders' summit-wear really took hold in Apec in 1991 when US President Bill Clinton made everyone wear a bomber jacket in Seattle.

Jim Bolger couldn't have been more pleased to wear the fabulous looking gear.

Having become known over time as the "silly-shirts" photo opportunity, they were too silly for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who abandoned the practice at the Apec meeting in Vladivostok this year.

Happily for the press, the East Asia Summit has kept them.


While some of the leaders looked resplendent in traditional Cambodian silk shirts, John Key looked, well, a little gay, in hot pink silk with bulging shoulder pads.

Mr Key described it later as "fetching". And he said others had thought so too.

"That was broadly along the lines that the President [Barack Obama] described it as too," he said with barely suppressed delight.

But forget any suggestion that Mr Key may have chosen the colour himself by way of acknowledging the offence he caused when he teased a DJ for wearing a "gay red shirt".

His office simply supplied the measurements and he was delivered the pink number.

However, the shirts have a serious purpose - to give a sense of unity and homogeneity where it doesn't actually exist. It also reinforces New Zealand's place as part of Asia.

Mr Bolger was mocked when he declared back in the 90s that New Zealand was part of Asia.

As each year goes by and New Zealand's engagement with Asia deepens, Mr Bolger could be regarded as more prophetic.

Mr Key is in no doubt.

"We are part of the Asian region and part of the Asian century."