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.
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.”
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.
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.