By Titus Too

They say image is everything, and former President Moi knew just that when he awed Kenyans with his well-matched sharp suits, ties and shoes during his tenure and even after retirement.

Those close to the former Head of State paint a picture of a man who had a sharp taste for fashion, which they strived to emulate.

Mr Stephen Kipkering Sugut, a retired presidential security officer, says Moi transformed his lifestyle to date. He served in the elite General Service Unit for many years and was one of the aides who handled the President’s clothes.

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Right match

Sugut and team were charged with selection and preparation of Moi’s clothes to ensure right matching to achieve the desired look. The task involved matching of colours of shirts, socks, neckties, suits and shoes. Moi could pick his choice among sampled varieties.

Sugut says he worked closely with Moi for 24 years.

"There was a senior officer in charge of clothes for the President and I was among those who did selections. The senior officer would make the final decision before the clothes were presented to the Head of State for his pick," says Sugut.

Sugut says they were privy to the presidential diary, which helped them plan for his dressing.

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He says Moi’s clothes were British designer suits, which were never complete without a fresh lapel flower.

"The roses were Moi’s trademark and everyone accorded them utmost care and tending. He would never leave State House or his Kabarnet Gardens residence without one on his lapel," he says.

"Moi was very active and an early riser. We would be up at 3am or 4am to make sure he was set for his routine duties," says Sugut.

On a light touch, Sugut says many supporters of the former president tried to ape his fashion but none matched him.

"When they could not cope, they resorted to pinning badges with Moi’s portrait on their lapels," he says with a broad smile.

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Unique styles

In virtually every public function Moi attended, he had unique dressing styles. He had different ‘dress codes’ for different occasions. He had the official, ceremonial and dinner clothing, explains Sugut.

"It was official attire when he attended church and State functions. He would don designer-made short-sleeved shirts during harambees, tree-planting or trips to hot zones like Coast or North Eastern provinces," he says.

And when the President travelled out of the country, he took with him staff to ensure correct dressing.

Military service

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"I travelled widely and gained a lot of experience being with Moi. The only region I never went to is Australia," Sugut told The Sunday Standard in his Sironoi farm, Moi’s Bridge, in Eldoret West District.

Moi also often carried the symbolic baton (rungu) even on visits out of the country.

"Even after retirement, he has officers to ensure his neatness is not compromised," adds Sugut.

Born in 1947 at Sironoi village in Nandi District, Sugut completed his intermediate education at Kapsisiywa Primary in 1965.

He joined Kaiboi Technical Institute in 1966 only to drop out after one year due to lack of fees.

He joined the police force in September 1967 as a corporal before joining the presidential escort under the founding President Jomo Kenyatta in 1973. A year later, he was moved to Moi’s security escort in 1974 (then he was vice-president). He continued to work for the escort when Moi became president in 1978.

"I voluntarily retired in 1997 at the rank of inspector when my mother passed on. I wanted to devote my time to my family," he says. He has two wives and seven children.

Social life

Sugut says of Moi: "He liked honest and neat people. He would trust you for that. He never missed Sunday services."

He describes Moi’s fondness to socialise as his favourite pastime. He used to meet friends such as former MPs Ezekiel Barng’etuny, Mark Too, G G Kariuki and former Mayor of Kabarnet Philemon Chelagat.

He says he has learned from his company with Moi that neat dressing is the first impression of one’s character.

The former aide is currently a businessman and a farmer. He keeps dairy cows, sheep and goats. Moi gave him a dairy cow at his Kabarak farm to start the farming business.

"I have learned to keep what I learned those days," he says.

Sugut says they are still friends with the retired president. "Moi has a farm at Maji Mazuri and I meet him whenever he comes around."

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Daniel Moi Stylist