Noticed the rising popularity of Pope Francis? Time magazine lauded him as Man of the Year 2013, as did MTV’s college channel mtvU. Men’s magazine Esquire chose him as Best Dressed Man of 2013!

So, what exactly does he wear? Pope Francis refuses to cover himself in the gold-embroidered gowns favoured by previous popes. He doesn’t want specially made red shoes, nor does he sport a golden crucifix around his neck. Instead, he wears a simple little metal cross and walks around on ordinary, well-worn black lace-up shoes. Whether he’s delivering his Christmas speech at St Peter’s Square, washing the feet of Muslim woman, or wandering around the favelas at night, his outfit never changes.

Now meet Arvind Kejriwal, the new prime minister of Indian city-state Delhi. During his recent inauguration, which he travelled to by metro, he wore his party’s trademark white cap bearing Hindi slogans saying ‘I seek full freedom’, ‘I seek self-rule’ and ‘I am a common man’. Instead of a suit, he donned a chequered short-sleeve shirt and pullover. His common look reflects the name of the party, Aam Admi Party (AAP), which means the ‘party of the common man’.

Then we have the new mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, who says he wants to give the city back to the common New Yorker, and it’s clear that something is going on. De Blasio wants to reduce the gap between the haves and the have-nots. At the same time, the Greek presidency of de EU has decided to drop unnecessary luxury and has done away with the presents usually offered to journalists. Even the presidential logo is very sober.

Clearly, five years of economic crisis and constant disclosures of financial misgovernment, corruption, greed and excessive luxury have made us long for plain and simple commonness. That the new leaders have recognized this and symbolize their understanding of the ordinary man in their style of clothing is more than refreshing. These men stand for simple and obvious values like just good, just fair, just transparent, just no unnecessary and highly expensive luxury, just equality.

These themes seem so obvious, but in the aftermath of the economic crisis and the crisis of trust, they are so incredibly up to date again. I can only wish the words of these ‘common men’ won’t prove empty now they have assumed power. My hope is that values like ‘good’ and ‘honest’ will become common property in society, politics, economy and design again.

It is in this light, too, that WDCD for Economy will be a theme at What Design Can Do on 8 & 9 May 2014. Don’t miss the early bird tickets now available.

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