After the king’s death, prices for black clothes in Thailand are skyrocketing

Deep mourning meets high fashion.
Deep mourning meets high fashion.
Image: AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Thailand is running short on black clothing. On Oct. 14, the country declared a one-year mourning period over the death of its widely beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was the world’s longest-reigning monarch, and asked that for the first 30 days everyone cancel any festivities and wear black or white clothing. Black quickly became the more prominent choice as crowds of black-clad mourners thronged the streets and department stores filled their windows with anything black they had for sale.

Pedestrians dressed in black clothes to mourn the passing of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadejin looks through clothing on a rack along a street in Bangkok, Thailand October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Issei Kato - RTX2P3A9
Pedestrians shop for black clothes.
Image: Reuters/Issei Kato

Demand for black clothing has been so great that stores have run out of stock and prices have surged, leading the government to intervene. On Oct. 15, authorities announced they would begin inspecting clothing vendors to make sure they weren’t price gouging.

Reports have also surfaced on social media of people being shamed for not wearing black or white. One person posted an image of a man in an orange shirt eating a meal, and said, “Why is he not wearing black? What is his heart made of? He has no conscience.”

Such shaming has led the prime minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, to issue a statement asking people to show understanding for anyone not in the color, the Bangkok Post reported. ”The prime minister wants people to understand each other and sympathise with the limits faced by each individual,” said a spokesperson. He quoted the prime minister as saying, “This should be a time to demonstrate love, unity and keep the society peaceful.”

A tailor works on black clothes for customers mourning Thailand's late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at a market in Bangkok, Thailand, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha - RTX2P4Y0
A tailor makes mourning clothes.
Image: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha
epa05587939 Shops dresses Mannequins in black and white clothing on display at a shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, 16 October 2016. Thailand's shops are experiencing a shortage in black clothing as the nation mourns The late King Bhumibol, the world's longest reigning monarch, who died at the age of 88 in Siriraj hospital on 13 October 2016. EPA/DIEGO AZUBEL
A Thai shop displays black and white clothing.
Image: EPA/Diego Azubel
Passengers dressed in black and white or dark coloured clothes, to mourn the passing of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, are seen during the morning rush hour at a station in Bangkok, Thailand, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Issei Kato TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX2P3FN
Thai commuters dressed for mourning.
Image: Reuters/Issei Kato

Prices for black clothes have gotten so high that dyeing stations have popped up in Bangkok for people who can’t find or afford new clothes to dye their old ones. But one Bangkok resident who spoke to the Associated Press said even the dye shops are profiteering.

Clothes are dyed black, the color worn by Thais mourning the death of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, by members of Krung Thai Tractor, a tractor and heavy machinery importing company, at the free dying station in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016. Pop-up clothes dyeing centers are a new phenomenon in the Thai capital as black apparel becomes too expensive for many following the king's death. The Thai government has declared national mourning for Bhumibol, who died Thursday, and some clothing sellers have been quick to hike prices for black garments. Others have run out of stock. (AP Photo/Natnicha Chuwiruch)
A free dyeing station in Bangkok.
Image: AP Photo/Natnicha Chuwiruch

White and black—and other solemn colors, which are also acceptable—aren’t just suggested for Thai residents. The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has also asked British tourists to “behave respectfully” and wear “sombre” clothing.