APEC is an unusual institution: its members share the attribute that they border the most vast expanse of water in the world. Hardly a unifying factor. It's surely not surprising then that APEC is most known for its shocking fashion sense. All leaders dress in some vaguely national vestments from the host country and force smiles - even more so than usual. It's right up there with spirited economic negotiations, posturing on the environment and the Alexander Downer Perpetual Trophy for Karaoke.
We've sat through these images year after year - usually it's the only vision of a tedious conference that makes it to the TV. And they've mostly been the same: loud, silk numbers from Korea, Thailand or Vietnam showing how poor the world's leaders manage to look in loud, formless attire. That was the case in during boom times anyway.
Last year, however, the cracks started to appear: in Australia the world leaders wore dodgy knock-offs of Driza-bone coats, the always cringe-worthy and staple Olympic Opening Ceremony clothing of Australia that seems to please pensioners and those with a romantic ideal of The Man from Snowy River, but make the rest of us cringe. Unlike the previous attire, these were only made in Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.
Signs were there that things were going downhill. The sheen and lustre normally associated with gatherings of world leaders had been replaced by a dash for the bargain bin at Big W. And everyone came out with the same clothes. It's almost like the pending economic doom demanded some cutback in discretionary spending.
It shouldn't surprise us, then, that this year in Peru they all donned brown ponchos. If, as Samuel Johnson said, patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, then surely ponchos are the last refuge of the under-dressed.
It is not just this blogger that thinks they look like potato sacks - the conservative media agrees with me. It might be a nod to the tough economic times we are in at the moment, or it might be a case of diplomatic tit-for-tat, where, after a sleight early in the history of APEC which saw leaders wearing alfoil or curtains or whatever, each host country now tries to make other leaders look like complete tits by wearing tat.
I wonder how much further it can go, but I guess we will find out next year, when Singapore hosts the conference. If they're wearing barrels, the jig will be up.